Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette.
Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun)

As recently as Thursday night, Dan Duquette spoke publicly about his continuing vision for the Orioles heading into this week's winter meetings.

After a week that included the departures of three key pieces of the Orioles' American League East-winning team, Duquette said he was going to the West Coast looking to strengthen his depleted outfield, add to the bullpen and search for catching depth.

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Now, as the winter meetings open Monday, the biggest question regarding the Orioles has little to do with actual players, but whether Duquette, the team's top baseball executive, will remain in Baltimore.

Duquette, who is signed with the Orioles through the 2018 season, is reportedly a candidate to become the Toronto Blue Jays' team president and chief executive officer. The Blue Jays are looking to replace longtime team executive Paul Beeston, according to an ESPN report.

Orioles principal owner Peter G. Angelos told The Baltimore Sun on Sunday that he is "very pleased with" Duquette's performance and expects him to continue in his role through 2018.

"We signed him," Angelos said. "He has a commitment for four more years, and he has done quite a job for us. We are very pleased with his performance, and we expect him to satisfy his contract. We not only want him to, but we expect him to. … We don't want him to go away, and we don't expect him to go away. And he's given no indication he wants to go away."

A source told The Sun that the Orioles are aware of the Blue Jays' interest in Duquette, but there are obstacles to overcome before a move could occur, the largest being allowing him out of his contract with the Orioles.

Angelos said Duquette, 56, is contractually obligated to the Orioles, and Angelos said that's the way it should remain. Angelos believes there's no other alternative. Any team wishing to speak to an executive under contract of another organization needs to receive permission from that club.

"He is a sophisticated individual," Angelos said of Duquette. "He has a certain performance that is required in terms of the contract and, under those terms, he has four more years of service to be performed. I'm sure he is prepared to do that, and I am sure he understands that.

"I would say he has done an excellent job with his performance and particularly his performance with [manager] Buck [Showalter]. Why would we want to break up that combination that we have? The relationship between Buck and Dan and the Orioles is something we are very pleased with, to put it mildly."

Duquette wasn't scheduled to speak to local media here until Monday, but he addressed the rumors in an interview with MLB Network Radio on Sunday in San Diego.

"Well, I'm with the Orioles, OK?" Duquette said. "And I'm here to represent the Orioles at the meeting. And I really don't have anything to add other than that. These rumors, they come up in the industry all the time, and I don't spend a lot of time speculating on the rumors, and I'm not in the position to do that either."

When asked about Angelos' remarks in the MLB Network Radio interview, Duquette said he plans to honor his contract.

"We'll that's good to hear," Duquette said. "And I do have a contract, and I've always honored my contract, so I appreciate the interest, and I don't have anything else to add. … The good thing is that baseball is interesting and there's always a lot of opportunities, and if you do a good job, the opportunities will follow you."

In the past, teams have received player compensation in exchange for managers and front office executives who are under contract — among the recent cases were manager John Farrell heading from Toronto to the Boston Red Sox and general manager Theo Epstein going from the Red Sox to the Chicago Cubs.

But the move of a high-ranking front office executive within the division is unprecedented. The timing of the news, when both the Orioles and Blue Jays are in the midst of building their clubs for next season, also is peculiar.

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The rumor comes after a week in which the Orioles lost Nick Markakis, Nelson Cruz and Andrew Miller to other clubs in free agency. And as the Orioles attempt to regroup, uncertainly at the top of the baseball operations department can't help their pursuit of free agents and trade targets.

Duquette's stock is high. He won this year's major league executive of the year awards from the Sporting News and Baseball America. This past season, the Orioles won their first AL East title in 17 years by overtaking the Blue Jays, who led the division for most of the first half of the season, down the stretch. The Orioles won 96 games, their most since 1997, and came within four wins of the World Series.

Since the Orioles hired Duquette in November 2011, the club has had three consecutive winning seasons after a string of 14 straight losing years. He initially signed a three-year contract, and before the 2013 season, both Duquette and Showalter signed extensions to keep them in Baltimore through the 2018 season.

eencina@baltsun.com

twitter.com/EddieInTheYard

Baltimore Sun reporter Dan Connolly contributed to this article.

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