The latest chapter in the Dan Duquette drama took another step forward on Sunday, fueled by a SportsNet report out of Canada that the Toronto Blue Jays have ended negotiations with the Orioles on a compensation package to let Duquette out of his contract.
Does this mean the saga is over?
It’s not that we should discount that the Blue Jays are serious when they say they’re turning the page on the idea of making Duquette their next team president and CEO. And they’re not wrong in saying no to an Orioles wish list that includes of some of Toronto’s top prospects.
However, we’ve seen enough of these situations to realize that the Jays could be using their new hard-line stance as a form of posturing for future negotiations.
Most baseball people would agree that given past compensation packages for front-office executives, the Orioles’ wishes – which includes Toronto’s two first-round picks in last year’s draft, right-hander Jeff Hoffman and catcher Max Pentecost – would qualify as a king’s ransom.
But from a business perspective, the Orioles have done everything right with Duquette, allowing him to resurrect his career here after a decade-long big league hiatus and signing him to an extension through 2018 following the Orioles’ 2012 season. So, they should be rewarded for their savvy investment in Duquette if they’re going to let a division rival benefit from his work.
Negotiatons are never easy, and this one has an uncommon spotlight cast on it. It’s unclear how far compensation talks between the teams got, but a deal for Duquette was never imminent, and it’s obvious that the sides are far apart on what’s fair at the moment. That doesn’t mean talks couldn’t pick up today, tomorrow, next week or next month.
The Jays might be banking on the idea that the damage has already been done to Duquette’s future with the Orioles, that lingering doubt in the Warehouse about where Duquette’s heart is will fester until the club sees no other choice but letting him out of his deal.
The Orioles can use the threat of filing tampering charges as leverage. Orioles managing partner Peter G. Angelos is already at war with Major League Baseball over MASN broadcast rights, so he won’t hesitate to cry foul if he feels it is just. However, in reality, it's not that easy to execute. It would be awkward to file tampering charges with Duquette while he's still in the organization.
The Blue Jays haven’t squashed anything officially, and Duquette is still mum on the subject. One would think that would have to change before Duquette goes under the spotlight at Saturday's FanFest event, which is one of the few times fans have the opportunity to ask Duquette unfiltered questions.
This thing still has to play out. It’s not over.
** The Orioles got one more arbitration case out of the way Sunday, settling with utility man Ryan Flaherty on a $1.075 million deal for 2015.
Flaherty’s deal has an interesting caveat. Besides being able to make an extra $50,000 for any one of several postseason honors or an All-Star game nod, Flaherty can earn an additional $25,000 for making at least 400 plate appearances.
Flaherty has proven to be an important piece for the Orioles because of his defensive flexibility. He can play all four infield positions and both corner outfield spots in a pinch.
But if Flaherty ends up with 400 plate appearances this season, the Orioles probably have bigger problems.
Last season, Flaherty was the primary replacement for Manny Machado at third base in the first month as Machado recovered from knee surgery. Flaherty also filled in for shortstop J.J. Hardy as he missed 16 games due to injury. Flaherty saw most of his time at second base, but the Orioles are likely to see through their vision of making Jonathan Schoop their second baseman of the future.
Flaherty came to the rescue for the Orioles when they needed him, but he still only made a 312 plate appearances, the most in his career. So if he reaches the 400 mark, it will mean he’s been needed to fill in even more.