It’s hard to tell where exactly Orioles ownership is in the search for a new baseball operations chief and manager right now, but that isn’t unusual.
The timetable for getting those two positions filled should be a matter of some urgency, and yet the environment in which this kind of search has to take place can make it difficult for a team to move swiftly and look decisive.
The Orioles didn’t waste much time dismissing manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president Dan Duquette. That part of the equation — though uncomfortable — was easy because the decision was entirely in the control of the team. The hiring process involves several variables that are out of club control, including the requirement that the Orioles get permission to interview any potential candidate under contract with another team and rules governing when a new hire can be announced during baseball’s postseason.
Generally, that permission is granted if the candidate is to be interviewed for a position that would be considered a promotion. In some cases — such as when the Toronto Blue Jays pursued Duquette to become their club president before the 2015 season after he signed a long-term deal with the Orioles — the club does not grant permission.
Of course, we’re talking about the end of the process without knowing much about when it actually began and whether John and Louis Angelos have already compiled a full list of candidates for the baseball operations job.
Presumably, the Orioles would hire the general manager first and put him in charge of the search for the next manager to avoid the kind of friction that developed between Duquette and Showalter over their seven-year relationship.
The fact that they moved quickly at the end of the season to open each position normally would indicate they are well down that road, but determining anything about this situation from outside their small inner circle has been difficult. The Angelos brothers rarely speak publicly and their attentions currently are split between the baseball operation and the looming second round of Major League Baseball arbitration in the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network rights fees dispute with the Washington Nationals.
There were reports months ago of contact with former Los Angeles Dodgers GM Ned Colletti. The news vacuum has left plenty of room for speculation about possible candidates for each job, but it’s still unclear whether the Orioles will try to hire a new-age, analytics-conscious baseball operations chief and the next great young manager, or focus on more proven candidates.
The last time the franchise entered a significant rebuilding mode, owner Peter Angelos hired veteran executive Andy MacPhail to run the baseball operation and MacPhail appointed longtime minor league manager Dave Trembley to oversee the infusion of young talent into a mediocre veteran roster.
When the club began to turn a competitive corner, MacPhail turned it over to Showalter. When MacPhail moved on, the Orioles went with another veteran executive — despite interviewing less proven options — and Duquette delivered instant success.
The current organizational landscape is different. The midseason teardown that sent most of the club’s stars to contending teams has left a 40-man roster that will feature only a handful of veterans by the time spring training begins in February.
So, the most obvious question is whether the Orioles will choose to gamble on a young, unproven manager to grow along with the team or go with one of the track-record guys who have become available over the past couple of seasons.
There is an argument to be made for both. While the Orioles could conserve more payroll by avoiding a big-ticket manager at a time when there is little chance the team will be competitive over the next two or three seasons, they would also run the risk of inhibiting the progress of the rebuild with a manager who does not have experience developing young players.
But first things first.
The choice of a new executive presents a similar dichotomy and might reveal a lot about the philosophy of the new generation of Orioles ownership. The franchise has largely hired old-school, experienced baseball operations types to fill that job. Now, John and Louis Angelos have the opportunity — if they choose — to push the organization further into the age of analytics with a new-era baseball operations chief.
How fast they complete the process also depends heavily on whether they are considering candidates for either job who are working for teams that remain alive in the postseason. If not, they conceivably could get through this process in a couple of weeks and announce a new GM before MLB imposes a news embargo during the World Series, which starts Oct. 23.
The sooner the better. The Orioles won’t have a ton of competition for available GM candidates, but they are one of five American League teams that currently have a vacancy in the manager’s office.
After a season in which they lost a club-record 115 games and unloaded most of their biggest stars, Baltimore won’t be the most attractive destination.