Entering his second full season as the Orioles' president of baseball operations, Andy MacPhail has presided over a massive rebuilding project that has turned the 40-man roster over by more than 50 percent in one year alone. MacPhail, who is under contract with the Orioles through the 2011 season, recently discussed with The Baltimore Sun his relationship with team owner Peter Angelos, second baseman Brian Roberts' long-term status, the progress of top prospect Matt Wieters and other issues.
Are you satisfied with the progress the organization has made in the relatively short period of time since you've been here?
You can't be satisfied with the amount of wins that we've had. There are aspects of the organization that I'm satisfied that we've made significant enough progress in a year and a half. Most importantly, scouting and player development. If you believe the trade periodicals, Baseball America, for instance, had us 16th last year, and we're the ninth best system this year. MLB.com had the 50 best prospects in the game, and we had four of them, all in the top 36. ... So we've made significant progress in that regard, and we've made more progress internationally than I was expecting. I really wasn't expecting that we'd have two guys on our 40-man that we got from outside the country, one from Mexico [Alfredo Simon], one from Japan [Koji Uehara]. It's ongoing progress. But if you measure the movement we've made, I'm pretty confident we're on the right track.
Are you excited with what you got done this offseason?
I think the offseason was fun for us. We made four deals. They weren't huge deals, but we made four trades. We signed five free-agent players. We're trying to do what we can to upgrade different positions with an emphasis on defense in certain places, or getting more right-handed [hitting] or mixing in the element that we think we need at that time.
When you arrived here in June 2007, there was a lot of speculation that you were going to be one of the guys in the running to be the next commissioner of baseball after your tenure with the Orioles. What are your plans going forward?
I don't pay much attention to that, to be honest with you. I do know one thing about myself - the job that is important to me is the job that I have now. Without patting myself on the back, I think that's one of the strengths that I've had, whether I was the assistant general manager in Houston or the manager of the Bradenton Cubs in Rookie ball. I am sort of limited in my attention span that I just get focused on doing what I'm doing now. I'm having fun. I like the people I'm working for, and I like the people I'm working with. This is a labor of love here, so hopefully we can improve things with the win-loss record.
I met with Mark and [his agent Scott Boras] in D.C. They were honest with me. Nothing they said didn't come to fruition for them. I'm confident they got the deal that they were looking for where they were looking for it. I didn't feel like we were misled in any way, shape or form.
How do you respond to the criticism that you should have been more aggressive in wooing Teixeira?
I would say to that we made our offer, indicated that we were flexible and there was never any engagement back on their side. They never came back to us to alter the deal. As I said earlier, I'm pretty confident that they got the deal they were looking for, where they were looking for it.
Explain why you weren't more active on the top free-agent pitchers on the market.
Philosophically, we believe that you should grow the arms and buy the bats. But our pitching was such that we were obligated to try to get some immediate help. We certainly were in serious discussions on several pitchers and ultimately landed one in Uehara. We had discussions with several free-agent pitchers but either didn't think there was a lot of interest coming back or didn't feel that the price was a smart gamble.
You've been described as deliberate and methodical. Are those unfair labels especially after your busy offseason?
I don't necessarily think it's unfair. I might get painted as conservative, and I probably am conservative. But I don't think being conservative is synonymous with being inactive. We were active, and we did things that made sense for us.
People always want to know about your relationship with owner Peter Angelos. How would you characterize it?
I very much enjoy working for Peter. ... Everything that he represented to me when he asked me to come here, he's done, which does not surprise me in the least. He clearly is a good owner for me to work with. I enjoy my time with him. He's kept me from making a mistake or two, and he's given me the latitude that he said he would.
Are you surprised then with how he is perceived around the city?
I don't know the way things were before I got here. But I can tell you this: There is nothing further from the truth than the idea that he is meddling. He calls me fewer times than any other owner I've ever worked for. I have to take the initiative to schedule time with him, to bring him up to date with what is going on with our team. I try to make sure there are no occasions where he is surprised by what happens. I feel like I owe it to him to make sure he knows in advance the things that we're contemplating doing.
Where are the long-term contract negotiations with Brian Roberts, and how do you want to see this work out?
Our first preference, our second preference and our third preference would be that we're able to reach a settlement that would be satisfactory to Brian and still gives the club latitude to have good players around him.
Where will Matt Wieters start the season?
I think it's best to remember that Matt has had only one full professional year of playing experience. He has only 200 or something at-bats in Double-A. In all likelihood, he will start the year at [Triple-A] Norfolk. That's a pretty good jump for him. Then I think how he does, and how our catching is doing here, would be a determination when and if he comes up over the course of the 2009 season. Based on his past performance, I would suspect that he would get here sometime [in 2009], but the exact date, I don't know.
Tomorrow: 2009's major national stories.
Sunday: 10 questions for the Orioles and a roster analysis.
Tomorrow: Pitchers and catchers report to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Sunday: First workout for pitchers and catchers
Wednesday: Position players report to Fort Lauderdale
Thursday: First full-team workout
Feb. 25: First Grapefruit League game, vs. Mets at Fort Lauderdale Stadium, 1:05 p.m.
April 3: Exhibition, Orioles vs. Nationals in Norfolk, Va., 3:30 p.m.
April 4: FanFest at Camden Yards, 10:30 a.m.; exhibition, Orioles vs. Nationals at Nationals Park, 6:05 p.m.
April 6: Opening Day, Yankees at Orioles, 4:05 p.m.