Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette spoke at the York Revolution’s Hot Stove Luncheon on Tuesday in York, Pa., and it always surprises/impresses me how Duquette can work a room given that he doesn’t seem particularly comfortable in spotlight roles.
The key for Duquette is that his lengthy experience in the game has afforded him a wealth of great baseball stories he can tell. He relayed a few Tuesday, including one about playing golf with irascible Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver – who made a point to keep hold of the scorecard in an effort to guarantee his foursome would win the tournament.
There weren’t a whole lot of questions tossed to Duquette in an abbreviated Q&A exchange during the event, and the first one took me a little by surprise. But I guess it shouldn’t have.
It was about the club’s plan for rookie Trey Mancini, whose potential playing time took a hit with the re-signing of Mark Trumbo. Fans love Mancini; that’s what happens, I suppose, when you homer three times and drive in five runs in your first 15 plate appearances in the majors.
Duquette said what you expected him to say – that the organization likes Mancini, that he has succeeded wherever he has played and that he’s going to be a good major leaguer. Duquette also mentioned that Mancini’s had some experience playing outfield in amateur competition — he’s only been a first baseman as a pro – but right now is seen as a DH or first baseman. And Duquette didn’t offer any glimpses into where Mancini may begin 2017. That, Duquette said, will be determined in spring training.
I believe that.
I believe there is a scenario in which Mancini makes the club out of spring training, primarily as a DH versus lefties and a bench bat. And I also think Mancini could begin the year at Triple-A Norfolk. I think that might be the more likely situation, but I don’t think that decision has been made yet.
After Duquette spoke at the luncheon, I grabbed him for several minutes, one-on-one. You can hear that interview in its entirety here as part of my first “The Baltimore Baseball Show” radio program, which aired Tuesday night on WOYK 1350 in York and will run weekly throughout the rest of the winter.
Here are some of the things he said of interest:
Duquette on his club’s need to be better defensively in the outfield: “I think we still have some work to do to upgrade our outfield defense. Our outfield defense wasn’t quite up to the level that it needs to be to be real solid in comparison to the rest of the league. So, we’ve got some more work to do in terms of getting some more speed in our outfield and then, also, I think there are some things we can do with our positioning to put ourselves in a better position to make a few more plays.”
I asked him about some specific outfield names – Michael Bourn, Angel Pagan, Peter Bourjos – and Duquette didn’t bite. He said he is discussing several players that could help and added that he also wanted to evaluate Rule 5 pick Aneury Tavarez this spring.
“We’ve got our eye on a couple players that we hope to be able to sign and bring them to spring training. … We want to take a look at (Tavarez) in the spring and then we’ve got our eye out for some other outfielders that can help our club.”
Asked whether he was specifically targeting a left-handed hitter or right-handed hitter for that spot, Duquette responded: “No, not really. We’ve got pretty good depth and comparability. We just need a little bit more speed, I believe.”
Asked about adding pitching, Duquette said he is still looking for a veteran starter to provide more competition in the spring and better depth overall – and that he wouldn’t mind strengthening the bullpen, too.
“We’re still trying to sign some veteran pitching. We traded a veteran pitcher in (Yovani) Gallardo for (Seth) Smith so, ideally, we’d like to have another one on our ballclub to take a look at in the spring. … We’re always looking for pitching depth. I’d like us to get a little bit more depth to our relief and, ideally, another starter.”
There are still plenty of solid players left on the free-agent market, and this is when Duquette seemingly does his best work – signing players that can help the team while spending under perceived market value to acquire them.
“Over the next couple of weeks, I think you’ll see a lot of these players choose where they are going to spend a year,” he said. “And, hopefully, we’ll get a couple more on the Orioles to help us fill out our roster.”