After previous stops in Montreal and Boston as the General Manager of the Expos, and Red Sox, Dan Duquette arrived in Baltimore two months ago to become the Executive Vice President of the Baltimore Orioles.
Baltimore Sports and Life has reached out to Mr. Duquette with some questions, and we are extremely appreciative for him to have taken the time to respond.
Baltimore Sports and Life: “Gary Rajsich has replaced Joe Jordan as the Director of Amateur Scouting. It was characterized in the press that the Professional Scouting Department was essentially dissolved, with six Pro scouts moving to the Amateur side. Ken Rosenthal from Fox Sports quoted you as stating, “It’s a more efficient way to structure the Orioles, better for identifying talent and utilizing people’s strengths to help the team.”
While Scouting is Scouting, will these former Pro Scouts be able to hit the ground running, and help the Amateur side immediately? Will the three remaining Pro Scouts be sufficient for evaluation of Minor League players across the game? Will additional resources be added to the Pro side?”
Duquette: “Our goal is to improve the infrastructure in our baseball operations department to ensure that we leverage our staff to build the most competitive organization possible. Some changes have been made, other changes may still be yet to come, but all of these changes will be made with the goal of getting this organization to a consistently competitive place, which is no small task in the AL East.
Specifically on the scouting changes, the draft is where we can make the most significant impact in talent acquisition. If we have good evaluators of talent, it will be a boon to us to have them more focused on the amateur side.
We are going to make other improvements and investments in the areas of video and data, as well. As you get more video and statistical analysis on a player, the longer they’re in professional baseball, it’s not as vital to have them seen by professional eyes. Players establish a record of their work.”
Baltimore Sports and Life: “Boston’s Southeast Crosschecker Danny Haas has been hired. Hass joins Ron Hopkins as the Orioles National Crosschecker’s. How do you envision them working in tandem? Will each be responsible for a certain geographic area? Are there additional changes you want to bring to the Amateur side? The O’s spent $8.8M on the Draft in ‘09, a similar amount in ‘10, and just over $10M in ’11. Large portions of those draft spends have been bonus dollars. Do you think this spending has been sufficient?”
Duquette: “Our spending levels and resources have been appropriate. Our evaluation and development processes have to improve for us to see a better return on those investments.”
Baltimore Sports and Life: “During 2005-11 period the O’s have had 20 picks during the first 3 rounds of the Draft. In that same period the Yankees have had 21, Tampa 34, Toronto 35, and Boston has had 36. What are your thoughts here? What will you specifically do to gain or protect compensatory draft-picks?”
Duquette: “We are going to focus our efforts on putting together the most talented on-field product possible and the draft will certainly be a large component of our talent acquisition. The new collective bargaining agreement has changed some of the rules with compensation for free agents and draft picks, so those factors may not be as relevant anymore.”
Baltimore Sports and Life: “One of the more exciting additions to the Front Office has been Stephen Walters as Economic Advisor. In an interview with Camden Crazies (http://www.camdencrazies.com/2011-articles/december/orioles-hire-economist-stephen-walters.html), Walters states that, “Wise owners will be adaptable: they will allow savings in one area to be banked for the future or re-allocated in the present.”
Tampa has proven over the past four seasons that a franchise which excels in Scouting and Player Development can succeed in the American League East, despite having far less resources than the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. If you are provided with a $100M budget to allocate across the Major League roster, Amateur Scouting, International Scouting, Player Development, etc. – will any ‘savings’ from the Major League roster, be re-allocated to other internal operations?”
Duquette: “We are going to be creative and we are going to be flexible. We are in a wonderful baseball market with extremely knowledgeable and supportive fans and have the full support of our ownership to do what is necessary to get to where we want, and need, to be with our on-field product. I am not going to put a specific number on anything, but again the CBA will impact certain areas of expenditure for all teams.”
Baltimore Sports and Life: “Fred Ferreria has joined the organization as the Executive Director of International Recruiting. Ferreira was quoted as stating that the O’s are actually looking into adding a Venezuelan academy. Have there been any organizational discussions with the retired Melvin Mora, about Mora serving as an ‘Ambassador’ for the O’s in his native Venezuela? How likely is an academy in the near (18 months) future?”
Duquette: (SEE NEXT ANSWER)
Baltimore Sports and Life: “Many O’s fans were encouraged by the news that Ferreira has helped bring in 10 new international scouts, working in the Dominican, Venezuela, Curacao, Guatemala, Holland, and Costa Rica. Will the O’s have a presence in places such as South Africa, Australia, Brazil, Italy, China, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan?” How does Ferreira’s role as Director of International Recruiting differentiate with David Stockstill’s role as Director of International Scouting?”
Duquette: “For this and the question before it: We have to work harder and spend smarter than our competitors. We will put talented people in positions to best help the organization identify and acquire the talent we need to be successful.”
Baltimore Sports and Life: “FOX’s Rosenthal labeled (http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/MLB-deal-unfair-to-small-market-teams-112211) the new CBA a dagger to small market teams. Do you agree with that assessment? That CBA provided a $2.9M international cap on each team for the ’12-’13 signing period beginning July 2nd. Will the O’s be aggressive about pursuing any International FA’s prior to that? Do you anticipate reaching that cap in the ’12-’13 signing period?”
Duquette: “Everyone has to play by the same rules, so we will have to be creative in our international spending. We are not going to think there is one way to deal with the international cap; if there is one player out there that we think will make the biggest difference to the organization, we would spend the cap max on him. If not, we might be better served bringing in multiple international players in a signing period. Our needs will go a long way in dictating what path we take in a given year in the international market. The most important aspect is making sure that we have appropriate coverage and good evaluators around the world and that is a big part of reshaping our infrastructure and adding scouts to the organization.”
Baltimore Sports and Life: “The O’s sent a contingent to the Dominican recently to scout Yoenis Cespedes. Do you believe he can be a player that makes an immediate impact to a Major League lineup, particularly at a corner OF position? A number of teams that are seen as preferred destinations for Cespedes appear likely to make significant ($50M?) offers for him. Will the O’s be as aggressive as anyone in attempting to obtain him?”
Duquette: “I’m not going to comment on individual players, but very generally, if there is a large expenditure needed for a player that we feel is a difference maker to the Orioles, then I believe I have the full support of ownership to do what is best for the organization and sign that player.”
Baltimore Sports and Life: “Former Phillies General Manager Lee Thomas was added as a Special Assistant to you. Obviously he adds a wealth of experience that should be able to help the Baseball Operations Department. However, as a 75 year-old, clearly he is not an ‘up-and-comer.’ Every Business 101 Class in the Country talks about Succession Planning, and how it is a trademark of successful organizations to regularly be grooming Executives through increasing responsibilities. Do you foresee adding a Assistant GM / VP of Baseball Operations to the organizational hierarchy?”
Duquette: “Between the talented people I inherited upon taking this job and some new hires that have recently been brought in, I am confident that we are going to have a diverse department with a mix of both youthful energy and years of experience at the major league level. This group will be able to cover both the administrative responsibilities and the organization-building goals that will be put in place.”
Baltimore Sports and Life: “In a Baseball America poll (http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/majors/best-tools/2011/2612213.html) of Major League Managers, Adam Jones was ranked as the 2nd best defensive CF in the American League. On the other-side you have the most advanced public defensive metrics which state Jones is a below average CF. I tend to believe that the truth lies between those two extremes. In ’11, Jones had a Weighted On Base Average (wOBA) of .339, and his Isolated Power (ISO) was .185. For the 2nd consecutive year, he played in 149+ games. For the 3rd consecutive year his OPS fell within the range of .767 to .792. He finished with 25 homers, and 26 doubles. Jones is a Free Agent after the 2013 season. This leads many to believe he should either be extended or traded. If he were to be traded, one would expect that you would bring back players who can be under long-term team control. How do you rate Jones as a defensive player, and will the O’s offer an extension this Winter?”
Duquette: “Adam is an All-Star and a Gold Glove winner and a very good player just entering his prime. I have always believed in building through pitching and up the middle strength, and Adam brings many desirable skills to the table and is an asset for us in centerfield; he is very valued here.”
Baltimore Sports and Life: “If the O’s are ever going to be competitive in the near term, their young pitching has to produce. Matusz was extremely strong over his last 10 starts of 2010, and abysmal over his 12 outings in 2011. Like Jones’s defense, I think the truth about Matusz is probably somewhere in the middle, but he absolutely needs to earn his spot next Spring.
In 2011, Arrieta saw improvement in his K/9, Line Drive %, Ground Ball %, and First Strike % numbers. With the removed bone spur not directly at the elbow (and with him having surgery when he did), there seems to be confidence in his ability to have a normal throwing program this Winter. Obviously 21 homers in 119.1 ip is too much, and his fastball command has to increase.
There was been a lot to like about Britton’s rookie season, especially with how he responded to the adversity of July. Overall he finished 11-11, with a 4.61 era. In his 154.1 ip, he allowed 162 hits, 12 homers, 62 bb’s, with 97 k’s. His OPS against was .735, and he had a G/F ratio of 1.24. Like Arrieta, his fastball command needs to improve.
What are your current thoughts on these three?”
Duquette: “Pitching is going to have to be our cornerstone as it has been throughout the organization’s history when the Orioles have been successful. I’m excited to get to see these talented arms in Sarasota, but we can never have enough pitching. We are going to bring in pitching until we find the right mix, but I hope some of these young guys are long-term solutions and significant parts of our foundation. Everyone will get an opportunity to prove what they can do and the best men for the job will be the ones to get the ball every fifth day.”
Baltimore Sports and Life: “Wieters finished with 50xbh’s (.450 Slugging) and was lauded as one of the best defensive catchers in the game. He is under long-term team control (through ’15). Many believe that his Agent (Scott Boras) would not allow Wieters to sign an extension prior to reaching FA. As a Catcher, I would think Wieters would have to seriously consider an extension offer now. He potentially gives up some money in the first year or two of what would be his FA, for the piece of-mind of some additional guaranteed dollars over the next four years he will be behind the plate. Are the O’s open to discussing an extension now?”
Duquette: “As with Adam, Matt is a big part of our up the middle strength and an impact player on both sides of the ball. He is a very good player, and may just be scratching the surface. We hope he is an Oriole for a long time.”
Baltimore Sports and Life: “The O’s 2012 roster could* currently resemble something like:
Guthrie, Britton, Arrieta, Matusz, Wada
Johnson, Gregg, Strop, Hunter, Simon, Bergesen or Tillman, Patton or Eveland
Reynolds 3rd / 1st
Davis 1st / 3rd
Roberts, Teagarden, Antonelli or Flaherty, Chavez or Miller
*While I would prefer Davis at 1st, and Reynolds at 3rd, am I correct in believing you prefer the opposite? Am I also correct in believing that the O’s currently see Bergesen, Tillman, and maybe Matusz starting for AAA Norfolk to begin the year, with other pitchers on the 40 man roster such as Darren O’Day, Rapada, Zach Phillips, and VandenHurk competing for spots in the Baltimore pen?”
Or is the intention right now to just increase the depth, and let things be sorted out through play and injuries in the Spring? If play in Spring Training matters, how much can it matter (for good or bad) based on the limited sample-size?”
Duquette: “My goal is to build depth in this organization through a combination of aggressive recruiting and disciplined player development. We want to be competitive and strive for success immediately, but we are not going to be at our destination goal in year one. I expect to identify a strong core and let competition decide who our complimentary pieces will be this spring.”
Baltimore Sports and Life: “Since taking over as EVP, I appreciate that you have been consistent with your comments on the record. What I have gotten from your comments is that the payroll is likely to remain stagnant at roughly $85M, and that the O’s want to improve to above .500 in ’12.
You are taking over a team which has not had a winning season since 1997, or even won 70+ games since 2006. Yet, it would also be unfair to say you inherit a total reclamation project either. There is enough talent on the Major League roster, that heading into the 2011 season the averaged predicted win total from 19 different analysts was 78. Even if 81 wins is plausible for this coming year, should that be a organizational ‘goal’? Meaning if the team can not contend in ’12, or ’13, should the focus be a deeper rebuilding now, even at the potential expense of wins in ’12?”
Duquette: (SEE NEXT ANSWER)
Baltimore Sports and Life: “If you wanted to make moves that could help down the road, but potentially be at the expense of wins now; do you believe that Ownership and Mr. Showalter would be comfortable with that? Do you disagree with the premise of the question (i.e. do you believe you can make moves to be more competitive today, while building for tomorrow simultaneously.)?”
Duquette: “This applies to your last two questions: The organization, the players and the fans in Baltimore want to win. It is going to be a challenge off the bat, but you won’t be a success unless you make that the goal. We are going to do what we have to do to make this team consistently competitive for the long haul, but that process will start this year and I do expect us to show immediate improvement.”
Note: You can discuss Duquette’s comments at the BSL Message Board (https://baltimoresportsandlife.com/forum/)
Chris Stoner founded Baltimore Sports and Life in 2009. He has appeared as a radio guest with 1090 WBAL, 105.7 The Fan, CBS 1300, Q1370, WOYK 1350, WKAV 1400, and WNST 1570. He has also been interviewed by The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Business Journal, and PressBox (TV). As Owner, his responsibilities include serving as the Managing Editor, Publicist, & Sales Director.