Baltimore Orioles: The Dan Duquette decision has major implications
By Tim Smart
The Baltimore Orioles will soon have to decide whether or not to renew the contract of current General Manager Dan Duquette. Why Duquette’s track record shouldn’t be the only factor in determining whether he returns to the front office
The Baltimore Orioles have gone from bad to worse this year under GM Dan Duquette, posting a franchise worst 45-110 record with seven games left to play. Considering those remaining games are against the Astros and the Red Sox, the two best teams in the American League, there’s a chance they lose out and finish with a record of 45-117, MLB’s worst since the 2003 Detroit Tigers.
How much of that record is current General Manager Dan Duquette responsible for? It’s actually quite difficult to discern, considering the alleged issues the Baltimore Orioles front office has dealt with in terms of decision-making hierarchy over the past several years.
Rumors abound that the Angelos family has played a large part in the signing of free-agents and player extensions. The Chris Davis contract, Mark Trumbo, Alex Cobb, not extending Manny Machado and many more high-profile issues like these have been linked to Peter Angelos’ unwillingness to let Duquette run the franchise.
Angelos, and his sons John and Louis, prefer to stick their noses into baseball operations and hinder the organization’s ability to effectively run the franchise. Along with that, VP of Baseball Operations Brady Anderson is close friends with the Angelos family, which places Duquette in a uniquely difficult situation trying to run the Orioles.
There has been plenty of speculation this year about whether or not Duquette would return to the Orioles front office after his contract expires at the end of 2018. But on Friday afternoon, USA Today writer Bob Nightengale tweeted that the Orioles are likely to re-up Duquette’s contract, potentially spurning rumors of his departure before they really start.
We covered the Buck Showalter part of the discussion on Saturday here at Birds Watcher. There’s just too much to unpack to cover them both in the same article. But what does this mean for Duquette, now that he’s rumored to receive an extension from the Orioles?
Were the Orioles unsure of whether or not he’d be a candidate to return earlier in the season, but once he was allowed to enact the necessary rebuild in Baltimore and the front office saw what he did in the trade market, he was more strongly considered?
We’ve seen the Angelos family make questionable decisions before, but basing contract negotiations with their potential General Manager off of one season’s trade deadline acquisitions is unintelligent, at best.
That’s not a slight toward Duquette; he’s done a decent job when given the opportunity to make decisions but the Orioles can’t seriously consider giving him an extension based on a handful of trades, and the performances of the 12-15 players acquired in the two months since coming to the organization.
The Baltimore Orioles cannot afford to further delay the rebuilding process at the major league level. Fans are reaching a breaking point with the franchise; this season has been pathetic, from the players on the field to the executives making decisions in the front office.
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But there clearly needs to be widespread change across the organization. The scouting and player development departments need to be improved drastically. There needs to be a unified, focused approach from the executive management level in order to create a purpose and drive for the franchise so the Orioles can move past this season’s results and forward toward the future.
If Dan Duquette is to return, he needs to be given full control of the baseball operations department. There cannot be any meddling from the Angelos family and Brady Anderson cannot be the final decision maker. If Duquette returns, it needs to be his organization to run.
The fear is that those criteria will not be met, as they have not been met in the past. Whether or not Duquette is deserving of an extension is very difficult to discern. We can’t really say for sure, because we don’t know the level of input from the Angelos family and Anderson in key decisions regarding the Orioles’ future.
Under the leadership of Duquette, the Orioles are 633-656. They’ve made three post-season appearances, which could largely be accredited to manager Buck Showalter.
The Orioles haven’t spent in the international free-agent market, which has less to do with Duquette than it does with Peter Angelos. Some amateur draft standouts under the Duquette regime include Kevin Gausman, Hunter Harvey, Trey Mancini, Ryan Mountcastle and Cedric Mullins.
If it feels like a reach to count Mountcastle and Mullins there, you’re right. There isn’t a lot of talent from the 2012-2016 drafts to be at all excited about, and it’s still too early to say much about the last two draft classes for certain.
Notable free agent signings since 2012 include Nate McLouth, Jair Jurrjens, Ubaldo Jimenez, Nelson Cruz, Chris Davis, Darren O’Day, Mark Trumbo, and this year’s Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner.
The point is this: the success in 2012, 2014 and 2016 had more to do with Showalter than Duquette. The Orioles haven’t drafted well over the past decade, they haven’t developed the talent they’ve acquired and they haven’t appeared stable at the executive level in the time frame.
The Orioles should consider Duquette’s entire resume when entertaining the idea of re-signing him. They should also consider how much input the Angelos family has had on baseball operations decisions in Duquette’s tenure as GM. If they’re comfortable letting Duquette handle the rebuild, so be it.
But more important to consider is whether the Angelos family will allow Duquette autonomy while running the baseball operations department. Brady Anderson cannot have more sway than Duquette, and the Angelos family cannot undermine Duquette’s decisions.
If there is no autonomy in the Orioles front office, and the organization doesn’t hire the right manager to lead the team, it won’t matter who the next General Manager of the Orioles is. We’ll just be heading back toward the same poorly run franchise we had to deal with before Showalter was hired.