SARASOTA, FLA. — The latest chapter in the Dan Duquette-to-Toronto story still offers many gray areas.
Just before the winter meetings started last month in San Diego, reports surfaced that the Orioles executive vice president was a top candidate to become the next team president and chief executive officer of the Toronto Blue Jays. At that time, Orioles managing partner Peter G. Angelos said definitively that Duquette, who is signed through the 2018, is going nowhere.
Angelos offered similarly ironclad statements to The Baltimore Sun on Wednesday after Fox Sports reported that the Orioles and Blue Jays have been negotiating a compensation package to allow Duquette to go to Toronto and that there was "growing optimism" a deal would get done.
Angelos said the Blue Jays have expressed interest in Duquette, but he said firmly that the Orioles are not in any negotiations with Toronto.
"We have a contract [with Duquette], and that's the end of it. … Our position is what I said. This is not something to negotiate," Angelos said. "If they made an offer, we would look at it, but we are not intent on taking it. We are not engaging in any discussion."
Obviously, any deal for Duquette would land on Angelos' desk before becoming official. And if anything is certain, it's that Angelos -- at least publicly -- still has no intent of allowing Duquette out of his contract.
Even if he was considering letting Duquette go to Toronto, in these cases, compensation packages don't bring much. The Blue Jays would seem to have to blow the Orioles away with an unprecedented offer to get Angelos' attention.
But with the 2015 season fast approaching, this situation isn't going away.
For a fan base that has seen longest-tenured Oriole Nick Markakis, top run producer Nelson Cruz and lockdown left-handed reliever Andrew Miller all walk away without a major offseason acquisition made to compensate for those losses, they have to grow more skeptical about the club when they don't know whether the top baseball official is building this year's team with one foot out of The Warehouse door.
Having said that, fans would probably be upset whether Duquette's future was in doubt or not. Orioles fans are naturally skeptical, and sometimes for good reason. Coming off their first American League East title since 1997, the Orioles haven't done much while other division teams have upgraded. The idea that Duquette could soon go to a division rival raises eyebrows.
But has the uncertainty in the Orioles' front office affected the team's ability to sign free agents? No matter the job, everyone wants to know their boss is going to be there long-term before signing on the dotted line, even in baseball.
Then there's the lingering doubt inside The Warehouse, where there have been discussions about how the Orioles would approach life without Duquette. With five weeks before spring training, the baseball people in the organization would be blind to not be prepared for that.
And meanwhile, the one person who can add clarity to the confusion is Duquette himself, but he hasn't.
During the winter meetings, Duquette answered questions about the Toronto reports almost too tactfully. He said he was in San Diego working for the Orioles and concentrating on building the 2015 club. He hasn't said anything publicly on the topic since.
Duquette's public approach to the whole situation has been peculiar, and I'm not the only one who thinks that. He's the only one who can say he's with the Orioles for the long haul -- or vice versa -- say that he's intrigued by the idea of a promotion.
Instead, he has chosen to swim through murky waters with his future while taking the Orioles along for the ride.
And the way this trip is going, you can't imagine there aren't rough waves ahead for everyone involved.