Baltimore Orioles and Dan Duquette: Wallet Sitters


Jun 01, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; General view of Eutaw Street and the Warehouse at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Many fans of the Baltimore Orioles find the annual offseason to be the most difficult time to maintain a healthy intellectual and emotional connection with the team. And no, I’m not talking about the fact that there is this grievous period of time with NO BASEBALL to watch – that horrible thing called “winter.”

We could term the Baltimore Orioles’ and Dan Duquette’s way of navigating the offseason with one word: deliberative.

I remember many years ago when one of my five sons was a little boy, he was invited to another child’s birthday party in a park. When I picked him up later, the host parent told me that my son was unique among the children. While all of the other kids were hyper and running and playing, he spent that time sitting and eating several helpings of the food and cake, while talking with the adults. I suspect that Dan Duquette was a kid like that.

I have written several times since the end of the season that I have to laugh at the difference in disposition that the Baltimore fanbase has toward Duquette as compared to this time a year ago. Ubaldo Jimenez aside, getting Nelson Cruz for a steal, seeing some other moves like Brad Brach and Steve Pearce pay off, and winning 96 games has done much to change the mood.

But I don’t think the core personality and methodology has changed. After surprisingly getting one big piece of business done during the playoffs in locking up J.J. Hardy, DD is going to pick up some nice fringe and back-up pieces, while likely waiting until the end of the free agent market to make any bigger moves there (beyond re-signing Nick Markakis – which one thinks has to happen sooner or later). 

Dan Duquette is not a dumpster diver, he’s a garage sale junkie!

Think of the free agent market as kind of like a giant neighborhood garage sale that happens once a year. Duquette is that person who spends all day walking around the neighborhood, looking at everything for sale, asking about a few items, politely chatting up everyone, smiling a lot, etc. And then, in the final 15 minutes, he swoops in to get a couple best values at surprising prices.

It is not uncommon for Oriolephiles to see the organization as subject to a malady called “piriformis syndrome.”  Never heard of that? It is a type of sciatic back pain that may be caused or aggravated by extended periods of sitting on a fat wallet. I’m actually not making this up!

Though no one is going to accuse the Baltimore Orioles of being a Martin O’Malley-like free-spending machine, I don’t think the facts support the cheapskate contention. Perhaps in the past it could be successfully argued. But the O’s are in the top half of MLB now, they have the most arbitration-eligible exposure this year of all 30 teams, along with the pending nature of a confusing legal battle with the Nationals.

One man’s “too cheap” is another man’s “financial wisdom and prudence.”

All of this is to say to my fellow Orioles fans that the winter is going to be another long one of waiting. Presuming the Markakis deal gets done and all the arb-eligible O’s are re-signed, even if nothing else transpires and no free agent or trade additions are made, the current Orioles 40-man roster (with Nick) is a formidable team. That has not been true in a long time, and Duquette and others are due the honors of having worked to make this a reality.

Beyond that, here is why this neighborhood garage sale strategy really might work. I have not run the numbers on this, as there would be too many numbers with too many assumptions I could not know, but I am going to generalize and speculate (I believe accurately) that there are not enough budgeted dollars in MLB to give every free agent what you would expect them to receive.

There are SO MANY free agents still on the board. And even though we are closer to the beginning than the end of the hot stove season, who is going to pay all of these guys anything close to what they are asking and maybe even worth?

Think about just the top names who are unsigned: Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, James Shields, Melky Cabrera, Nelson Cruz, Yasmony Tomas, David Robertson, Chase Headley, Andrew Miller … not to mention Raul Ibanez and Nolan Reimold!  There are dozens of others.

Add to this the surprising amounts that some of the already-signed free agents received (i.e. Russell Martin, Michael Cuddyer, Zach Duke) and just be logical … there is not enough money out there in New York, LA, Texas or wherever to go around. There will have to be deals at the end.

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And Duquette is the most patient GM type to wait around at the curb and see what has developed, to note what others are loading in the backs of their SUVs, and what remains unsold in a neighborhood driveway.

Offseason 2014-15 is only just beginning, and the fanbase wearing orange and black will likely be the last ones still watching at the end.