LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – The Orioles primary focus this offseason remains upgrading the woeful rotation, but it’s becoming increasingly obvious that club executive vice president Dan Duquette must turn to the trade market for at least one starting pitcher and that acquiring two – and not three – is a more likely scenario.
Duquette said as much during his daily powwow with Orioles’ media here on Monday.
“Everybody wants to talk about the free-agent market, but there’s other things that you can do with trades,” Duquette said. “(Free agency) is not the only venue or option for the club to add players. It’s probably the riskiest financially. So, to the extent that the club is active in these other markets and we can do some good there, that generally works out better for us.”
More than any other, this is the time of the year that you need to read between the lines when Duquette answers questions. He gives some clues – more than he did when he first came to the Orioles – but he also doesn’t like to show his cards too much.
For instance, on Monday he technically didn’t say the Orioles have ruled out giving four-year contracts (or larger) to starting pitchers, which is something we all know they won’t be doing this year. But he kind of said it.
“Those haven’t worked out that well for the clubs,” he said. “So, I’m not sure I would recommend that.”
Here are some more quotes from Duquette, and some reading-between-the-lines thoughts:
Duquette on stepping up the pursuit of starting pitching now: “There are so many teams looking for pitching that we might have to be a little more proactive. The market’s dynamic, and it’s starting to take shape and you see a lot of these teams looking at who they want to sign and who wants to sign with them. Probably got to move a little bit quicker.”
Reading between the lines: Duquette expected more of the second-tier pitchers to still be available, but a flurry of signings (Tyler Chatwood, Mike Minor, Miles Mikolas, Mike Fiers) has left few mid-level starters standing. Sign someone soon or what’ll be left is a collection of one-year wild cards.
Duquette on having to trade a bullpen arm to get a legitimate starter: “The bullpen is still a strength. The other clubs are looking at the market and then they are checking back in with us on some of the players in our bullpen. There is still a lot of interest in that group because they’ve performed well in the past. So, if we have any depth on the team it might be in that area of the club. So that is something we could take a look at.”
Reading between the lines: This isn’t what Duquette wants to do. He wants to keep that bullpen strong because the rotation could be a mess again. But there may not be a choice now. So, dealing a guy like set-up man Brad Brach might be one of Duquette’s only shots to get a legitimate starter through a trade.
Duquette on whether he can obtain a starter through a trade without hurting the 2018 club: “Hopefully. How many teams do you think are looking for pitching? 28 … I don’t know. We have to make a good deal … I think we have a little bit of depth in the minors. Some of our position players, particularly in the outfield, they give us a little bit of depth to discuss in trades. I think that and our bullpen.”
Reading between the lines: Probably not. You have to give up something to get something. And what is most attractive to other clubs is the O’s bullpen. There are some possibilities they can move in the minors, but, again, the Orioles might need some of those guys soon, too.
Duquette on finding three legitimate starters: “That’s gonna be tough, but if we have a couple, then we can get one from some of the guys we looked at last year. If you can get one from the group that we looked at, whether it’s (Gabriel) Ynoa or (Miguel) Castro or somebody else from the minors, then we need a couple (from outside the organization). And we’d really like to get a left-hander. Not just to get a left-hander. but a left-hander that can get them out.”
Reading between the lines: Nope. It’s gonna be hard as hell to find two solid starters in a market where everyone is clamoring for rotation help. So, the goal is two – including a lefty –and hope like hell someone from the minors can take a step up.
Duquette on trading for someone else’s high-priced starter that has faltered: “Where clubs went out and they spent a lot of money in the free agent market and didn’t get the return in that market?. … Those are options you can always take a look at, but we’d rather go out and make a good investment and get a decent pitcher.”
Reading between the lines: Sure as hell hope not, but the club isn’t ruling out any possibilities at this point. And, see what happens when you dole out big deals to starters?
Duquette on whether Chris Tillman is still in play for a return: “His name seems to come up all the time in our market. Because he was a big pitcher for us for a long time. That’s certainly could be considered by the club along with some others. Tilly’s name keeps coming up all the time.”
Reading between the lines: Well, the media keeps mentioning him. And the longer he remains on the market and the longer there aren’t better alternatives signing with the Orioles, the more it becomes a possibility. But, like anything, it’s gonna come down to money: How much he’ll get and what the Orioles are willing to spend.