Baltimore Orioles: Will Dan Duquette get to rebuild the Warehouse?

Dan Duquette, the Baltimore Orioles’ Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations doesn’t have a contract after 2018 but still seems to want to rebuild the team during and after the season.

The questions remain:  Will Baltimore Orioles EVP Dan Duquette be allowed to rebuild the Orioles and with autonomy? If so in what role and how should the Orioles rebuild the rest of the Warehouse?

After trading Manny Machado on Wednesday, reporters and fans got more than they bargained for when Dan Duquette spoke to the media on a conference call and conceded that the Baltimore Orioles were going to need to rebuild not only the team but the entire organization.

However, the many rumors earlier in the season seemed to indicate that Duquette no longer held the typical control of a general manager and instead was sharing responsibilities with multiple team officials including Orioles manager, Buck Showalter and Vice President of Baseball Operations Brady Anderson. Anderson was very prominent in the signings of Andrew Cashner, Alex Cobb and Chris Tillman before the season.

Buck Showalter also had a role in bringing back Chris Tillman and recruiting Colby Rasmus, both moves that have been a disaster.

So perhaps after Peter Angelos “benched” Duquette and his sons, John and Louis saw what Anderson and Showalter could do or couldn’t do, they had seen enough and restored Duquette to his proper authority when the club needed him the most – to trade their franchise player and get the maximum return.

Wednesday’s trade had a lot of Duquette’s fingerprints on it – targeting Yusniel Diaz as the centerpiece.  Diaz has solid hitting and on-base ability and was also a former prominent international signing by the Dodgers. The Baltimore Orioles also acquired Israeli-American pitcher Dean Kremer (Duquette was a founder of the Israel Baseball League), another Xavier product in Rylan Bannon to re-join his teammate Zac Lowther, Zach Pop, a 99 MPH throwing reliever that is ticketed for the closer role, as well as Breyvic Valera, a slick-fielding utility player who had good on-base skills in the minors.

The last time Duquette pulled off a trade for a rebuilding club was in 1997 with the Boston Red Sox when he sent closer Heathcliff Slocumb to the Mariners for Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe – two major pieces of the 2004 World Series Championship team. If all the players reach their potential in this trade it could not only surpass that one for total value but potentially even the Bedard deal with Mariners as the five players in return for the Machado trade arguably have higher ceilings combined than what MacPhail and the Orioles received in return for Bedard.

If Duquette has his authority back and the Orioles wish to expand their front office, I think the next logical step is to promote Duquette to Andy MacPhail’s former role – President of Baseball Operations – and give him a multi-year contract so he can see his vision through.

What then should the Orioles do about Brady Anderson and Buck Showalter?

For Anderson, if he wants to stay with the club, he’d have to pick a defined role that has nothing to do with player contracts or roster moves.  If he wants to work on wellness and nutrition for players, then that’s what he could do. If he wants a role above and beyond that, the Orioles should show him the door.

Buck Showalter should be fired and the new General Manager/Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations be allowed to pick his replacement for 2019 and beyond in a much more traditional relationship of a general manager and field manager.

A manager should never have more than or equal power to the general manager.  That’s how the Orioles got into the situation they are in.

For that general manager and new Band member under Duquette, my ideal candidate would be Ned Rice, a 35-year-old former Orioles executive who is now Assistant General Manager for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Rice was known for helping bring Andy MacPhail up to speed in analytics and was credited for finding the loophole in Major League Baseball rules that allowed Dan Duquette and the Orioles to re-sign Steve Pearce to replace an injured Chris Davis within the 30-day window after they had designated Pearce for assignment in April 2014. Pearce of course helped to propel the Orioles to their first division title in 17 years that same season.

Rice started his career with the Baltimore Orioles as an intern in the public relations office in 2005 and his last role was as Director of Major League Administration before he left in 2015 to join the Phillies’ front office.  He’s truly a homegrown Orioles executive in the similar line that Duquette was mentored and promoted by Harry Dalton, the former Orioles’ and Milwaukee Brewers’ general manager in the Hall of Fame for both clubs.

Duquette mentoring Rice as a young executive and bringing him back as the team’s next general manager would then be quite fitting. Rice would also be already quite familiar with the ownership structure as well as many in the front office so it should be a relatively seamless transition.

Rice should obviously get to pick his front office, but the Orioles should retain Gary Rajsich in whatever capacity they need to as he is their front office MVP at this point given his success in the amateur draft. If other clubs are looking to poach him, I would be open to promoting him to an Assistant General Manager/Vice President role – whatever they need to keep him. The rest of “The Band,” Director of Minor League Operations, Kent Qualls and Special Assistant, Lee Thomas should also remain in some sort of role as they have been with Duquette for every stop in his executive career.

If Fred Ferreira was open to returning and Rice approved, I’d have him hired back as his connections are vital for international scouting. His talents were wasted with the Orioles before, but it would seem with a supposed new focus on the international market including upgrading the Orioles’ international facilities, he would be able to be utilized better. If not, I’m sure Duquette and Rice could find others to step into the role, perhaps even someone from the Phillies organization.

Duquette and his Band were successful in building three competitive organizations so it made no sense to try to break them up and reduce their role to give Buck Showalter and Brady Anderson, who had no prior success in long-term organization building, more authority. Bringing Ned Rice back into the Warehouse as another Band member would also be an excellent move and provide long-term, a firm foundation for a front office structure that like the rest of the club is in desperate need of repair.

Even though the Orioles traded their best player on Wednesday, it set the stage for a new era in Baltimore Orioles baseball and one that has a chance to be the most successful under the ownership of the Angelos family as long as Duquette and his Band are truly in charge of the Warehouse again.

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