One of the things I took out of Tuesday's Dan Duquette news conference was the growing mutual admiration between Duquette and Orioles manager Buck Showalter. Each heaped praise on the other. Showalter was part of the search committee that interviewed Duquette, which is a little backward since Duquette is Showalter's boss.
Duquette said he thinks the duo will make a dynamic team; Showalter said he expects Duquette to be opinionated and passionate and to engage him in spirited discussion, which the manager said he is excited about.
Throughout baseball, people are curious to see how these two strong-willed men coexist. You should be, too, because if the Orioles have any chance of turning things around, it likely will be because Duquette and Showalter get on the same page and rebuild the franchise.
Forget the big tickets?: Heading into free agency, I thought there was very little shot the Orioles would be in the hunt for the biggest-money free agents, namely Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and C.J. Wilson. After hearing Duquette talk Tuesday, I'm even more convinced there is no chance of that happening.
Duquette said he wants to look at all avenues of improving the franchise. And that would include free agency. But he also pointed out that it's the riskiest endeavor – code for that this club isn't ready for taking a major financial risk given how far away it is from competing for a title. He said he was a builder, and so I expect him to build and not buy for a while.
Touching base with agents: It's not as if the Orioles will completely sit out free agency, however. They always do something, and this year likely will be no different. I was told that while the club was looking for its top executive, some of the current lieutenants contacted just about every free agent of interest to let their representatives know that they would be in touch at a later time. So the groundwork has been laid, but the real work will begin now that Duquette is in place.
Trade winds: One of the quickest ways to rebuild is to trade away current pieces for future ones. And Duquette has shown a knack for trading in the past. Given that, I would assume very few players on this 25-man roster will be untouchable this offseason. Matt Wieters would be one. It's possible the list ends there (though a guy like Nick Markakis would be hard to trade for a sufficient bounty given his salary).
Adam Jones could be a longtime keeper, but he has just two seasons before free agency; Jeremy Guthrie has only one. At the very least, Duquette should have some interesting talks with other clubs this winter.
Cuddyer watch: There's been a lot of talk that the Philadelphia Phillies want Michael Cuddyer badly and that they have his friend, Jim Thome, talking up the NL East champs (not that Philadelphia is a hard sell). That's bad news for the Orioles, because my sense is Cuddyer is near the top of the Orioles' wish list. The Virginia native fits well because he can play multiple positions, including second base, first base and outfield, so landing him would allow the Orioles to be more flexible in filling their other holes. Good luck, though, if the chief competition is the Phillies.