Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette, speaking alongside manager Buck Showalter at a “State of the Orioles” event for season ticket holders, said the team is going “full force into a rebuild.”
In the half-hour session for fans before Saturday’s game at Camden Yards, Duquette elaborated on the plans he outlined in a conference call after the Orioles traded franchise shortstop Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers and have since continued to execute with this past week’s trade of closer Zach Britton to the New York Yankees.
It begins with the trades, but to hear Duquette tell it, it’ll be much more than that.
“Ownership understands here that we’ve been putting a lot of resources in the major league payroll, probably more resources than the market really supports,” Duquette said. “Why would we do that? Well, we would do that to keep the core of the team together and try and maintain our competitiveness.
“So now we have taken a step back. We said, ‘OK, we’re not going to try and do as much today with our major league payroll, but we’re going to put our resources into tomorrow.’ So we’re redirecting those resources into our scouting operation, into our recruiting, into our player development. We’re going to be active on the international recruiting market. We’re going to be active in more technology and facilities, in our training program. So hopefully these investments will help us develop more and better players, so we can be competitive against the good teams in the [American League] East.”
The Orioles are lagging terribly on several of those fronts, and concede as much in a lot of cases, but Duquette said the decision to invest so much on the big league side was an “ownership decision” and a “conscious choice” to put resources into the major league team. The Orioles’ Opening Day payroll increased every year from 2013 to 2017, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, with the team spending a club-record $164 million on its 2017 major league players. This season’s figure decreased to about $149 million.
Duquette said the big-market landscape the Orioles play in with the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees in their division means the Orioles need to be smarter with how they allocate their money. That money is in the organization, he said, but had gone toward the major league payroll in recent seasons.
Going forward, Duquette said the Orioles will “invest enough to develop a competitive major league team,” with the expectation “the club would take the payroll down next year and the year after, and reinvest those resources in younger ballplayers.”
Just how much younger, however, wasn’t something Duquette would commit to. Asked by one fan whether the team would lock up the likes of Jonathan Schoop or Dylan Bundy to rebuild around them instead of go through the unpleasantness that marked the protracted separation from Machado, Duquette only said “we loved Manny Machado, too,” and said the Orioles’ draft position in 2018 would give them access to “one of the top players in the country,” one that could possibly be as good as Machado.
Asked a second time, Duquette said: “That’s a good question.”
“We try to bring up the players in the farm system and give them an opportunity to stay here for as long as we can,” he said. “The economics of the system don’t always work out in the benefit of the Orioles.”
For his part, Showalter tried to keep the focus on the field, saying his focus was on defeating the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday. He answered on behalf of Duquette when asked whether either of them would be with the Orioles to see the fruits of the Machado or Britton trades reach the majors, as they’re each in the last year of their contracts.
“It’s an honor every day for Dan and I to get a chance to do this,” Showalter said. “I don’t want to speak for Dan, but everybody would love to have a job that’s as much fun to go to every day. We have our ups and downs as a team, and it’s painful sometimes, but I’m thankful — and I know Dan is, too — every day to be able to be in the game of professional baseball, and more importantly, get a chance to work here in Baltimore.”