Seven days after the Orioles decided to part ways with Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter, no confirmed names to replace them have surfaced.
When the pair were released on Oct. 3, the Orioles announced that they would hire a new head of baseball operations from outside the organization.
“Once in place, this individual will have the final determination on all baseball matters that he or she believes will make the Orioles successful on the field, entertaining to fans and impactful in the community,” the statement read.
Although there has been skepticism from fans that Duquette’s replacement will have total autonomy, for now we should take that statement at face value.
After the Orioles traded Manny Machado on July 18, Duquette said the organization would rebuild, and he moved quickly to trade Zach Britton, Brad Brach, Kevin Gausman, Darren O’Day and Jonathan Schoop ahead of the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline.
Duquette, who had no job security, moved forcefully to make those deals and reiterated the organization’s plan to focus on international scouting, analytics and technology with the aim to cut the team’s payroll while it rebuilt.
If he was allowed to make those trades, why wouldn’t his successor be given the same—or even more latitude?
In order to attract top-shelf candidates to head baseball operations, Executive Vice President John Angelos and Ownership Representative Louis Angelos will have to give them their word that they’ll be able to reorganize the team as they please.
Brady Anderson, the team’s vice president of baseball operations, who isn’t a candidate to replace Duquette, remains under contract, the statement read. Neither Anderson nor interim General Manager Brian Graham will be a candidate because the Orioles are going outside the organization.
Replacing both the GM and field manager concurrently was a bold move just as the announced decision to rebuild was.
But in recent years the Orioles have shown that they’re capable of bold moves.
With the team floundering in June 2007, General Partner Peter Angelos decided another regime change was in order and in a surprise chose Andy MacPhail to head baseball operations.
The Orioles were in the midst of their 11th straight losing season, and few of the pieces on hand at that time remained when the team began winning just after MacPhail left four years ago.
MacPhail’s hiring of Showalter in July 2010 was another decisive move.
After the organization was criticized for allowing Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis to leave as free agents after the 2014 season, Angelos was convinced that shouldn’t happen again. In January 2016, the Orioles re-signed Chris Davis to a seven-year, $161-million deal.
The Orioles, falsely accused of being penurious, more than doubled their previous richest contract and the move, which has turned out to be disastrous, was met with general agreement from fans.
Davis’ contract still has four years to run, and what to do with it will be an early challenge for Duquette’s successor. No player was more representative of the Orioles’ 2018 season than Davis, who batted .168 and appeared lost at the plate.
It will be fascinating to see how a new manager and hitting coach affect Davis.
Two longtime hitting coaches suggest that Davis’ problems are fixable, but only if he’ll put in the work necessary to fix them.
After Caleb Joseph’s record-setting 2016 season, when he failed to record an RBI in 132 at-bats, he was pestered with questions about the ignominious achievement.
Two seasons later, Davis suffered through what’s generally conceded to be the worst season in baseball history.
Beginning with FanFest and then in spring training, Davis will be questioned endlessly about 2018.
Although far less accessible than he was in the past, Davis can articulate his frustrations well and in great detail when he chooses to, but he’ll choose to do so sparingly.
With Adam Jones unlikely to return, the 2019 Orioles won’t have many recognizable names. When national press members arrive in Sarasota next February to examine the rebuilding, Davis will be an obvious target.
In the past, Davis was always agreeable, but with Jones and Manny Machado on hand, he wasn’t generally the center of attention. Now, for negative reasons, he will be.
Fans who once supported the re-signing of Davis aren’t as supportive these days. Including deferred money, the Orioles owe Davis $110 million, money that will pay him through 2037.
Some have suggested that the Orioles offer Davis a buyout, which is unlikely. Davis, his uber-agent, Scott Boras and the Players Association would never accept that.
Barring injury, Davis will begin 2019 with the Orioles. If he shows no signs of improvement in the season’s first few weeks, then perhaps the new head of baseball operations and manager could help make a tough decision.
One longtime baseball man suggested that the key to the Boston Red Sox’s success this season was the May 30 release of the unproductive and divisive Hanley Ramirez.
Ramirez was in the final year of a four-year contract that was paying him $22.75 million this year.
The Orioles have long been reluctant to eat contracts, but if Davis begins 2019 poorly, it will be an interesting test for their new head of baseball operations.