NEW YORK—In 13 days, Dan Duquette has remade the Orioles. Gone are six of the most recognizable players of the last seven seasons: Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Brad Brach, Jonathan Schoop, Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day.
Duquette, the Orioles’ executive vice president, traded all of them, even though they were largely responsible for the Orioles’ three postseason appearances from 2012-16.
He also released Chris Tillman, the team’s most accomplished pitcher for those teams.
Duquette’s moves have saved the Orioles nearly $29 million in payroll obligations for this season and next. He promised a rebuild, and he’s starting from the ground up.
He’s brought in 15 players, two of whom, relief pitcher Cody Carroll and infielder Breyvic Valera, were added to the roster on Tuesday, and another, Jonathan Villar, who is likely to join the team in Texas Thursday.
Duquette also has brought in $2.75 million in international bonus slot money in the Brach and Gausman deals with Atlanta, giving the team $8,273,500 to spend.
The Orioles’ makeover could have been even more radical if Duquette had been able to convince Adam Jones to accept a trade to Philadelphia.
Many thought the Orioles’ teardown for 2018 was complete after the Brach deal last Sunday. Duquette conceded Jones wasn’t likely to move on to the Phillies. Machado, Britton, Brach and Jones are all eligible for free agency this fall.
However, Tuesday saw a dizzying final hours before the 4 p.m. non-waiver trade deadline, and the Orioles were convinced that Schoop, who couldn’t be a free agent until 2019, and Gausman, who has two more seasons beyond this year before he hits the market, were highly marketable commodities.
“When you start out on a direction to rebuild, I think it’s easier if you do a lot of the work when you get started,” Duquette said in a conference call.
“It’s a lot like building a house. I think if you demolish the house and build it with the foundation from the ground up rather than renovating it one room at a time. I think it helps in terms of the overall progress you can make.”
Unlike the trades for Machado and Britton, which centered on center fielder Yusniel Diaz and starting pitcher Dillon Tate, these deals didn’t feature a top prospect.
But they did feature Villar, who pulled off a straight steal of home in 2013 in Baltimore. The 27-year-old second baseman fits one part of the Orioles’ profile. He strikes out often. In 2016 and 2017, Villar struck out more than 300 times.
Villar does add an element missing from the Orioles’ modus operandi. He has excellent speed. In 2016, he led the majors with 62 stolen bases. Last year, he swiped 23 and this year, he’s stolen 14 of 16.
Duquette defended the deal with Atlanta, saying that because the Braves’ farm system is so deep, many of its prospects aren’t as highly thought of.
“They’ll come into our farm system and they’ll be ranked high,” Duquette said.
An overlooked part of the deal was Duquette’s ability to rid the Orioles of O’Day’s onerous contract. After the 2015 season, O’Day signed a four-year, $31-million extension, but he was on the disabled list five times in the first three years. He had season-ending hamstring surgery and accepted the trade.
While O’Day acceded to the Orioles’ wishes, Jones refused.
“We talked to Adam Jones about that earlier in the week, and Adam would like to stay with the Orioles,” Duquette said. He made his choice to stay with the Orioles. He’s going to be with the club.”
Duquette refused to speculate on whether Jones could continue his Orioles career in 2019.
“I don’t know the answer to that question, but what I do know is that the club is going to start auditioning some young players for full-time jobs for the future. We’ll have to address those questions in the offseason.”