No excuses - including financial - hold up in Orioles' decision not to aggressively pursue Jay -

Dan Connolly

No excuses — including financial — hold up in Orioles’ decision not to aggressively pursue Jay

It’s always tricky business — hammering a club for failing to sign a free agent.

There are plenty of mitigating factors that go into signings, including whether that player wants to be part of a particular organization.

I understand money is always an issue and that teams have varying financial resources and constraints.

All that said, the Orioles fumbled this one. They should have signed outfielder Jon Jay. He’s not a difference-maker, but he’s a perfect fit for what the lineup needed.

Jay is a veteran leader with a World Series ring, a left-handed hitter who can hit righties and lefties equally, a guy who can lead off, who can play all three defensive positions sufficiently and one who has reached base at a .355 career clip, including posting a .374 on-base percentage last year with the Chicago Cubs.

And he ended up being cheap, comparatively speaking. The Kansas City Royals, who are clearly rebuilding, signed Jay to a one-year, $3 million deal with $1.5 million more in incentives on Tuesday, according to The Athletic.

That’s basically the same deal in which the Orioles, who aren’t rebuilding, secured with Colby Rasmus, except Rasmus agreed to a minor-league pact worth $3 million if he made the majors and $2 million in incentives. So, technically, Rasmus could make more in 2018 from the Orioles than Jay can from the Royals.

The issue here is not whether Rasmus is a better player than Jay. He is a year younger (31 to 32) and arguably is a better defender. I’m not saying Rasmus can’t be an upgrade over what the Orioles had in 2017. This isn’t Colby Rasmus bashing. It’s decision-making bashing.

The issue here is that Jay is a much better fit for the 2018 Orioles than Rasmus. Jay may not be the better player, but he was the better fit. Period.


Jay may be the best fit for the Orioles of all of the free-agent offensive players that were out there.

The Orioles players knew that.

Both Manny Machado and Adam Jones made it known to higher-ups that they wanted Jay to be an Oriole, given the entire package he brings to the game and clubhouse. Machado, in particular, considers Jay a close friend, mentor and workout partner in Miami. It would have further improved Machado’s mood, which already has been particularly pleasant in March.

But this isn’t a personal thing. This isn’t about making one player happy.

Jay has been on winning teams, and guys like Machado and Jones want to win now. And feel Jay could have helped them do that.

Plus, the Orioles have coveted a natural leadoff hitter since Nate McLouth left, and Jay has held that role for 30 percent of his career. He’s batted leadoff more than any other spot but second. Rasmus, in contrast, has batted leadoff five times in his 940 career starts. He might be able to do it. So might Tim Beckham. But why jam a square peg into a round hole when round pegs were seemingly available?

Furthermore, Rasmus provides no lineup diversity for the Orioles. He plays good defense – a real plus – and can hit the longball. But he strikes out a ton and doesn’t walk much, or at least not enough to turn a career .242 batting average into a respectable OBP.

Jay is a career .288 hitter with almost no pop, but he can put the ball in play a lot more often than Rasmus. Consider that Rasmus has 600 more plate appearances than Jay in their careers, and 500 more strikeouts.

Rasmus has fanned in 27 percent of his major league plate appearances; Jay in 17 percent. Add in the 44-point difference in career on-base percentage and an either/or decision doesn’t make sense for a club that swings wildly and is continually among the worst teams in baseball every year in getting on base.

On-base percentage was supposed to be a focus of Dan Duquette’s when he took over as executive vice president in 2012. We haven’t seen it. Certainly not consistently.

What we have seen is a lineup without diversification, a group of hairy sluggers that can bludgeon an opponent or corkscrew itself into the ground at any given moment.

Then this weird offseason comes along, when free agent prices get stagnant and Jay, whom initially predicted would sign a two-year, $14 million deal with Texas, gets caught in the crashing market.

The Orioles should have been there to provide a soft landing.

Instead, they had no net put up.

I asked Duquette about Jay and Rasmus after the Kansas City signing was announced Tuesday.

This was his response:

“Given the organization’s depth and potential in the outfield, we like the flexibility we have to evaluate our club this spring, and then set our roster,” Duquette said. “We need to see more of Rasmus, and, keep in mind, Austin Hays has all the tools to be an everyday major league player.”

Now, reading between the lines, what I’m getting is that the minor league deal with Rasmus was a difference-maker here. It bought the Orioles time to evaluate what they have in the outfield, not just in Hays, but also Cedric Mullins, Anthony Santander, DJ Stewart and veteran Alex Presley.

Duquette didn’t want to block the path to the majors if a youngster seized the right field job in the spring, and he doesn’t have to earmark a 40-man roster spot for Rasmus yet. Although I see no scenario in which a healthy Rasmus doesn’t make the Opening Day roster.

I might be able to buy the concept of keeping the seat open for Hays or someone else – except Jay ended up with a one-year deal, too. Maybe the Orioles assumed that wouldn’t happen, and instead took the safer buy in Rasmus.

But one of Duquette’s primary strengths as an executive is reading the endgame of the market. And either he didn’t do that properly with Jay or he preferred Rasmus.

And, if it is the latter, then I never want to hear him talk again about diversifying a lineup and searching for on-base percentage guys.

Because there was a golden opportunity for it, and now Jay is on a club-friendly contract in KC.

For years I’ve defended some of Duquette’s moves because I do believe that, in certain instances, he has his hands tied by ownership philosophy, whether it is length of contract for a starting pitcher or lack of involvement in the international amateur pipeline.

I’ve defended his pitching purchases this year because I don’t believe he has the financial go-ahead to add a Jake Arrieta or an Alex Cobb and I think adding Andrew Cashner and Chris Tillman were fine moves given those restraints.

But not being more aggressive in pursuing Jay – for whatever reason – is negligence in my opinion by Duquette, Brady Anderson or whomever else is making the final calls.

Jon Jay may not make this club a World Series team, but he represented something different, something the Orioles’ lineup desperately needed. And, instead, the Orioles ended up with a similar part for basically the same money and same length.

That’s being shortsighted in March, something Duquette and Company usually isn’t.

That’s a mistake that can’t afford to be made given how tenuous this upcoming season’s performance appears.



  1. karks

    March 6, 2018 at 9:23 pm

    To pass on Jay makes very little sense. He wouldn’t have blocked Hays – could have been a useful 4th outfielder at worst. What frustrates me is that this team seems so half-in for the season. Either you’re going to do what you can to compete or not.

    Part of me feels like they want to be in a prime position to sell at the midway point. It would make sense in that they can’t afford to let Manny walk without getting something for him. Honestly, I sort of wish they just would have ripped the band-aid off a couple of months ago and made a deal. At least then we’d have some sense of their direction.

    • Dan Connolly

      March 6, 2018 at 11:52 pm

      Yeah. Not sure anyone knows the full direction here.

      • Mau

        March 8, 2018 at 10:36 pm

        It’s as if Duquette is a trojan horse. We’ve lamented starting pitching for years now. Haven’t had a true leadoff hitter for years now. Farm has been a weakness for years now. The Angelos band plays on.

  2. Orial

    March 6, 2018 at 9:24 pm

    Damn Dan I’ve banging the Jay drum for weeks snd even asked you this morning what it would take to get him. Well we all know now. Yes negligence is the perfect word. When players are openly campaigning for something that is very achievable to blunder like this is unacceptable. I too am angered. John Jay was the perfect fit.

  3. Creatively_19

    March 6, 2018 at 10:38 pm

    Wow Dan, I don’t think I’ve ever read anything you wrote that was this worked up about something the O’s have done. I don’t think anyone can disagree with anything you’ve said. The only conclusion I can come to about the Orioles off-season is that the O’s want to *look* competitive this year without actually *being* competitive this year, for whatever endgame that brings.

    • Raymo

      March 6, 2018 at 11:04 pm

      Hmm C19, I think you’re onto something here. If they actually *are* competitive this year, they’ll have to hang on to Manny all year, then lose him to free agency and get nothing in return. If they only *look* competitive, then they can rationalize a trade at the deadline. It’s so frustrating.

    • Dan Connolly

      March 6, 2018 at 11:55 pm

      I don’t usually get worked up on things because I see the rationale, even if I don’t agree with it. This time I don’t see it. Because of the fit.

  4. willpatten

    March 6, 2018 at 11:42 pm

    How do we know that the O’s did not try to sign Jay?
    Maybe he didn’t want to play for the O’s.

    • Dan Connolly

      March 7, 2018 at 7:53 am

      From everything I gathered that’s not the case.

  5. Camden Bird

    March 7, 2018 at 12:23 am

    I’d be willing to bet money that this sat on Angelos’ desk for weeks without coming to a decision, and now it’s too late. Seriously Dan, I love the O’s and always will. But boy, do I hate this front office. The only word to describe how this franchise is run is “DYSFUNCTIONAL”.

    • Dan Connolly

      March 7, 2018 at 7:54 am

      It usually does not move quickly. And that can be a real problem at times.

    • Wade Warren

      March 7, 2018 at 10:04 am

      you are spot on I am one of the few that will defend Duquette. One thing is evident in the work place or anywhere you don’t Buck the boss.

  6. Boog Robinson Robinson

    March 7, 2018 at 7:08 am

    Dan … you almost sound like a fan. Just sayin’ ….

    • Dan Connolly

      March 7, 2018 at 7:55 am

      Not even close. And I love when you try to trap me. This is all objective. They can’t get on base and then pass on an on-base guy that took a major discount because of the market.

  7. bigdaddydk

    March 7, 2018 at 8:27 am

    This is amazingly frustrating, and short-sighted, on the part of the front office. But so is failure to pursue another starting pitcher. Cobb and Lynn are both available, and rumor is that the Twins offered Lynn a 2/20 deal, which is laughable. If that’s how the market is setting up for either of them, doing nothing on the part of the front office is also tantamount to mismanagement. A rotation of Lynn/Cobb, Bundy, Gausman, Cashner, and Tillman could be pretty decent as compared to having a HUGE question mark in the 5th spot.

    • Dan Connolly

      March 7, 2018 at 9:19 am

      I’m not casting judgment on those until I see the actual numbers. And even then we must realize Os have to overpay in any bidding war for pitching given their division and park. Different for hitters.

      • bigdaddydk

        March 7, 2018 at 10:01 am

        Overpaying may well be the reality, but if we’re seeing pitchers getting low bids we need to be in on it. Seems like prices could be right in our wheelhouse this late in spring training, particularly for pitchers who need time to get ready for opening day more so than hitters do.

  8. Steve Cockey

    March 7, 2018 at 9:08 am

    “And, if it is the latter, then I never want to hear him talk again about diversifying a lineup and searching for on-base percentage guys.”

    That’s my favorite line from this piece, as it sums up my thoughts perfectly. Year after year, we’ve heard Duquette talk about wanting to add more “on-base capability” to the lineup. And year after year, dollars and resources are spent on the exact opposite: all-or-nothing types that don’t draw walks (Trumbo, Alvarez, Beckham, Rasmus).

    Now, looking back, OBP guys usually cost more than one-dimensional hitters. And Duquette has worked within limited/unknown budgets and rigid medical parameters, in my opinion to the point where I usually give him the benefit of the doubt more than most.

    I can’t give that same benefit of the doubt here though. Jay didn’t end up costing much of anything, and he didn’t require the multi-year deal the O’s wanted to avoid. Unless there’s an underlying medical concern we don’t know about, there wouldn’t be any reason for his signing to get held up within the club’s organizational hierarchy either.

    Duquette just seems obsessed with power hitters to me, and this is another example. It certainly makes sense to a degree, given the ballpark and the other parks within the division. But the O’s have plenty of power, with or without Rasmus. They’d have plenty of power with our without Trumbo. What they don’t have is enough diverse hitters to make that power more impactful, to turn solo homers into multi-run ones. With a few small exceptions, Duquette has failed to acquire this type of hitter, and this is perhaps the most glaring example. And in my opinion, it’s a big reason why the team hasn’t gone further over the last six seasons.

    • Dan Connolly

      March 7, 2018 at 9:20 am

      And I’m the writer of the family?

    • Steve Cockey

      March 7, 2018 at 9:33 am

      Two words: blind squirrel.

    • bv22

      March 8, 2018 at 12:49 pm

      I think the Duquette quote “they can’t catch it over the fence, right?” pretty much sums up his preference for the power hitters….

  9. bats in the blefary

    March 7, 2018 at 9:12 am

    You’re right Dan, except for one thing. DD deserves virtually no accolades. He has done little to improve this roster, and often has allowed the team to regress. I certainly agree that the owner ties his hands, but his decision making inside of that restraint has still been marginal at best. And this is just another example of his ineptness. Having said that, I do believe this team is being structured for a sale. That would impact decision making.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      March 7, 2018 at 9:27 am

      Did someone say sale? Angelos is selling the team?

      YOU SIR … are the Pide Piper and I’m following you all the way!

    • Dan Connolly

      March 7, 2018 at 9:28 am

      I disagree with several aspects here. One I’ve been hearing about that pending sale throughout my 17-year career. Always white noise. Two, people who want to bash Duq will easily dismiss what he’s brought in giving credit to MacPhail or Buck or anyone else. And he’s made mistakes. But you have to be fair. Those 3 playoff teams and this club’s future has his fingerprints too: Chen, Cruz, McLouth, Saunders, Miller, Flaherty, Young, Brach, Gausman, Trumbo, Alvarez, Mancini, Beckham, Castro, Sisco, Hays.

      • bats in the blefary

        March 7, 2018 at 9:36 am

        Of course the sale thing has been out there. But this time is different. He’s old and it is time.And the rumors are more real. As for DD’s contributions, they are there. They are secondary and relative to what he’s sacrificed, not that significant a resume.

      • OriolesNumber1Fan

        March 10, 2018 at 2:48 pm

        I read they checked back with Jay’s reps and were lead to believe he was stuck on 2 years. I like Jay, but hearing he’s lacking arm strength for what O’s were looking for defensively. What I just don’t understand is why hitters are not banging down the doors for the opportunity to play Camden Yards.

    • Dan Connolly

      March 7, 2018 at 10:31 am

      The rumors are more real? Ay caramba, Bats.

      • bats in the blefary

        March 8, 2018 at 9:32 am

        The payroll is shrinking, something even Angelos typically has not done. The team has on;y 4 players committed for 2019. The owner is 88 years old. That sure looks like a team that is for sale.

  10. BunkerFan

    March 7, 2018 at 9:31 am

    I agree with you completely, Dan. As i wrote yesterday when the signing was announced, the O’s must have decided not to sign him because: 1. They thought Rasmus/Presley filled their need for LH OF; and 2. Santander is having a better Spring than anticipated and they actually think he can contribute during his 44 days and after. As you pointed out, the key difference between the Jay and Rasmus/Presley offers were between MLB and MiLB contracts. I think this show the O’s are serious about NOT plugging up their MLB roster because they are intending to keep 3 Rule 5 guys on the team that heads north: Santander, Cortes, and Araujo. Signing Rasmus/Presley to MiLB contracts gives them the flexibility to keep a third Rule 5 guy if they want to. Too bad we can’t combine the two of them to make one great LH OF who can get on base, hit with power, and defend well. Kind of a “Rasley.”

    • Dan Connolly

      March 7, 2018 at 10:32 am

      Work on cloning and splitting for next few weeks?

  11. garyintheloo

    March 7, 2018 at 10:29 am

    Living in St. Louis I got to appreciate Jay’s contribution to a roster and really hoped they would sign Jay or Dyson. I also got to see and read about Rasmus with the Cardinals and feel this is just another Seth Smith/Travis Snyder move that doesn’t move. I’ve read a lot about the Oriole decision making process particularly the length of time and people it takes to pull the trigger on a player acquisition. I would love to get your insight on the who and what of that process. It seems to me that everything is trending the wrong way since Showalter summoned Ubaldo out of the bullpen in that wild card game.

    • Dan Connolly

      March 7, 2018 at 10:36 am

      My insights have been out there a long time. There’s a whole lot of cooks in the kitchen which can really slow down any acquisition process. Sometimes it helps the Orioles make the right call; other times it is a disaster.

  12. Birdman

    March 7, 2018 at 10:51 am

    Not only are there a lot of cooks in the kitchen, but it seems like they don’t even know what kind of dish they are trying to prepare. Still unclear whether the organization is really serious about making a playoff push in 2018 (if so, why not sign Jay, and Cobb or Lynn), or are they focused on rebuilding for the future (if so, why didn’t they move Manny in the off-season for the best deal available)?

    • Dan Connolly

      March 7, 2018 at 1:12 pm

      Direction has not been a calling card.

  13. Grand Strand Bird Fan

    March 7, 2018 at 11:07 am

    As noted Jon Jay was a great fit for this team. He can play all three OF positions, Lh bat, and good on base percentage. He seemed to be an obvious addition. However, once we signed Rasmus, I thought Jay was off the list.

    This decision as explained falls directly on DD. The money wasnt the factor as in other FA pursuits. For some reason DD felt Presely/Rasmus made the Orioles a better team than just adding Jay. Only time will tell if he made the right decision.

    • Dan Connolly

      March 7, 2018 at 1:12 pm

      Agreed. Tho it’s more about fit than anything.

  14. Bancells Moustache

    March 7, 2018 at 11:08 am

    You don’t commit to any contracts longer than 2 years when the team is going on the block. Peter Angelos is nearly 90. John Angelos sees television revenues about to be reduced, struggling attendance and a municipal government that never tires of reaching into others pockets. Whoa-oh, take the money and run…

    • Dan Connolly

      March 7, 2018 at 1:15 pm

      I heard the same thing 17 years ago. Sale rumors are created by fans. In 2005 a play journalist made a sweeping proclamation that they’ were being sold. They weren’t. I just smile and nod. And, remember, they signed Trumbo to 3 last year and Davis to 7 the year before. There just weren’t many players that demanded more than 2 in this market. I don’t think the philosophy has changed.

  15. Dblack2508

    March 7, 2018 at 2:45 pm

    I have been saying this since 2001, you were spot on about this reactive organization. OBP I rank it to the top of my list of players I want to acquire, remember when strikeouts were a bad thin?

  16. sjm5131

    March 7, 2018 at 6:32 pm

    I’d like to play devil’s advocate here and try to see some justification for Duquette’s actions.

    Duquette, like many of the Orioles’ hitters, is swinging for the fences.

    While Jay may have a low floor, he also has a low ceiling. Dan you admitted as much in your article.

    Jay may check a lot of boxes that the Orioles need, but realistically he isn’t going to change the Orioles’ fortunes in 2018.

    To realistically compete for a playoff spot in 2018, Duquette needs a repeat of a Cruz/Trumbo type acquisition.

    Rasmus was on his way to posting a 2-3 WAR campaign last year, and was above 2 WAR in 2015 and 2016. A return to that production level would be a tremendous boon to a team that got very little from its right fielders last year. Rasmus could possibly platoon with Trumbo/Valencia to deliver even better production.

    Even if you add Lynn or Cobb to the rotation, this team is going to need to score a ton of runs to win. Rasmus could flame out… he could also hit 30 HR.

    Jon Jay is a fine player, but Rasmus has significantly more upside, particularly when you consider the possibility of a platoon.

    There are many Orioles decisions to get upset about — this isn’t one of them.

    • Dan Connolly

      March 7, 2018 at 10:08 pm

      Yeah. We disagree. One way to score more runs is to actually get guys on base. And guys that can score from second on a single or first on s double. Jay is an excellent baserunner (not stealer too). And Another 120 empty outs is disconcerting.

  17. Ben1

    March 7, 2018 at 6:55 pm

    glad to see you are seeing, or beginning to see, Duquette through unfiltered glasses. He isn’t pretty at all.

    • Dan Connolly

      March 7, 2018 at 10:09 pm

      I’ve seen him through the same prism for years. Goods and bads. My job to have unfiltered glasses. Not fans.

  18. Disco Stupid

    March 8, 2018 at 9:20 am

    It’s plausible that Jay wanted a full time role and the O’s are looking for more production via platoon: Rasmus and a combo of Valencia and Gentry (who rounded into form late last year and put up .785 OPS against lefties). I love the OBP of Jay and the roster flexibility that a guy with negligible platoon splits provides. But it’s possible the Rasmus platoon ends up ahead of Jay’s production.

    • Dan Connolly

      March 9, 2018 at 12:05 pm

      Again to me it’s more about fit now than projected results

  19. Highbeams

    March 8, 2018 at 10:35 am

    So well said by you Dan, and on the money! One of your contemporaries talks about how the O’s average runs/gm is above average despite ignoring OBA. I say hogwash, because the masher approach brings excess runs in many wins, and no chance of runs vs. savvy opponent pitchers.

    And here’s what I don’t get – Buck is adament about fundamentals like holding runners, and catcher times to 2nd base, but hitters (like Davis) do not seem accountable for not being able/willing to bunt even in CLUTCH GAME SITUATIONS. If you want to beat crafty junk lefties, sometimes you have to throw “junk” back instead of bombs. Ergo…..John Jay

    • Dan Connolly

      March 8, 2018 at 11:05 am

      It never equates when’s team is second in homers hit and seventh or eighth in runs scored.

  20. Highbeams

    March 8, 2018 at 10:36 am

    new comment posted

  21. John in Cincy

    March 9, 2018 at 9:31 am

    It’s now come out that the Orioles had a very good reason not to sign Jay, and it is what he was asking at the time, which was appreciably more than what he ended up settling for with the Royals.

    • Dan Connolly

      March 9, 2018 at 12:07 pm

      A. Not buying it. B. He signed for what he signed. Rasmus contract not guaranteed. Nothing. I repeat nothing should have prevented them from continuing to check.

      • John in Cincy

        March 9, 2018 at 2:53 pm

        Then you’re not buying what comes from the Orioles, Dan. And as to not continuing to check, they DID continue to check. From Roch: “The Orioles checked again last week and there were no indications that Jay had come down to the point of accepting the type of offer made by the Royals.”

    • Dan Connolly

      March 9, 2018 at 11:22 pm

      But he did come down, right?

  22. Highbeams

    March 9, 2018 at 10:29 am

    Oh, great! So we get to choose between (1) our relative inability to negotiate, or (2) Jay had a double standard on what he would accept from the O’s vs. the Royals, e.g., our undesirability as a team and/or city? Nah, I think management just prefers mashers over Ws.

    • Dan Connolly

      March 9, 2018 at 12:07 pm

      It’s not s double standard. Prices fall.

  23. thebookdoc

    March 10, 2018 at 3:15 am

    I completely get the logic here. A little disappointed at the tone. There’s enough negativity amongst Orioles ‘fans’ without the reporters scooping it on. I’m happy with what I see rolling into the 2018 season. Yeah, OBP would have been nice, but it didn’t happen.

    Personally, I’m hoping Santander in on the opening day roster. Go around the horn with the current group and Mancini, Jones and Santander+Someone, then C. Joseph who seemed to hit last year and this spring — with whomever his backup is…It looks pretty good. I have no fear the bullpen will be awesome with or without Britton, and the fight in the rotation is interesting at this point. I was hoping N. Cortes started hotter, that we’d see Tillman sooner…There’s still possibilities on the FA list that could be a surprise.

    I hope Buck won’t plod to make a change when it is necessary…and that would be my only gripe with last year. I’m not so sure the Os threw in the towel last year as maybe the offense got a little exhausted trying to catch up every game after the SP got them behind. I’m glad that problematic staff broke up, and I’m optimistic that better things are coming AS IS in 2018.

  24. Dpsmith22

    March 13, 2018 at 10:47 am

    The sad thing is when Duquette has had chance to fill a hole, he has continued to chose swing n’ miss, low OBP guys. This fact lies with Duquette. He inability to acquire ANY rotation depth the last few years has been a big issue as well.

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