Baltimore Orioles: Dan Duquette looking beyond 2015


Photo: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

MLB’s winter meetings are coming to a close, and the frustration is continuing to mount for Orioles’ fans, and for good reason. The Orioles have seemingly remained idle while several rival teams within the division continue to grab headlines for offseason acquisitions. Not only have the Orioles failed to make any significant improvements to the roster, they lost all three of their own valuable free agents to other teams. However, although it may be frustrating for fans, Orioles G.M. Dan Duquette may be doing exactly what’s best for the team’s extended future.

It’s a tough position to be in if you’re Dan Duquette. Obviously, he wants to add to an already competitive roster, and build on the recent success of the past three season. But at what sacrifice? Despite the losses to free agency, the Orioles will again field one of the most talented rosters in 2015. However, beyond 2015 may be an entirely different story.

Following the 2015 season, Alejandro De Aza, Wei-yin Chen, Chris Davis, Bud Norris, Darren O’Day, Steve Pearce and Matt Wieters can potentially hit the free agent market. That’s a major chunk of the roster set to be free agents, and, as Orioles fans have seen this offseason, once a bidding war begins its extremely difficult to resign players.

De Aza and O’Day will probably be the easiest to extend. De Aza impressed in the small sample with the Orioles at the end of last season. If he can translate that into a solid season in 2015, the Orioles could attempt to extend him before the end of the season. Given his age and his past seasons, he should still remain relatively cheap.

Darren O’Day has been impressive since the first day he put on an Oriole uniform. However, outside the organization he is mainly viewed as a righty-specialist with no closing ability. For that reason, he probably has more value to the Orioles than he would on the open market.

Unfortunately for the Orioles, Chen and Norris are probably in their last season in Baltimore. In past offseasons pitching has grown incredibly overpriced. If Chen and Norris can duplicate the seasons they had in 2014, the market for both pitchers will probably be too pricy for the Orioles.

The most interesting to watch may be Steve Pearce and Chris Davis. Pearce had an unbelievable breakout year for the Orioles, but at age 30 there’s always a chance it was a fluke. However, he made 850,000 last season. If he has even comparable offensive numbers in 2015 to his 2014 season, he will be looking for a decent payday.

Chris Davis, on the other hand, had a completely different 2014. He started his Oriole career with two monster seasons that had many speculating he could be in line for a monster contract. However, last season saw him struggling so mightily many speculated whether the Orioles would even want him on their roster in 2015. It will interesting to see, if he can return to his 2013 form, how much the Orioles will be willing to gamble that his 2014 campaign was just a fluke.

Matt Wieters will be the Orioles number 1 priority this season. Losing all the other players to free agency will sting much less if they only retained Wieters. However, his market-value is incredible difficult to predict. Everyone is well aware of his spectacular defensive abilities, and he had slugged over 20 homeruns the past three seasons before missing most of last season. That being said, he also has a career batting average of .257, and he will be a 29 year-old catcher only a year removed from Tommy John surgery. What kind of contract all that adds up to is anybody’s guess at this point.

Of course, Dan Duquette wants to do all he can to win in 2015, but it’s his unfortunate task to plan beyond next season as well. It’s a tough position to be in. He could sacrifice several key farm pieces to acquire a Justin Upton-level player, yet those could be the key pieces the organization needs to fill the gaps in 2016. Also, he could spend on high-profile free agents, but any money spent could be less they can spend on players like Matt Wieters. It’s a tough balance to find, but Duquette has done an incredible job to this point.