Duquette finally gets another shot; forget Fielder, Nats should focus on pitching

In 2002, when Dan Duquette was fired by the Boston Red Sox as their general manager, he vowed to make a comeback. Now, he gets his chance as the Orioles’ top executive.

Duquette left Boston in cloud of controversy, and because of that, he probably didn’t get proper credit for his role in building the Red Sox’s 2004 World Series championship team.

His strengths are his Latin American connections and his ability to develop players. He gets credit for pulling off the most lopsided trade in Red Sox history, sending Heathcliff Slocumb to Seattle for Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe.

His weakness was his communication and people skills. He didn’t handle his staff well. He seemed to go into a shell and wouldn’t talk to people within the organization as well as reporters and other general managers. Roger Clemens and Mo Vaughn left the Red Sox on bitter terms under Duquette.

Duquette’s Red Sox, though, made the postseason in 1995 and again in 1998 and 1999.

He deserves another chance, and he’ll have his hands full with the Orioles.

The Orioles go into the offseason with a load of uncertainty: They need a left fielder and perhaps two infielders. They need to fortify their bullpen and rotation. He’s going to figure out what to do with Brian Roberts at second.

The farm system isn’t going to be much help, and money isn’t the answer.

So once Duquette gets his staff in place, the first thing he needs to find out is whether center fielder Adam Jones wants to stay long-term in Baltimore.

If Jones doesn’t want to stay, he’s the perfect trade chip this winter. His value is likely at its highest. And, there are teams that could use a center fielder, including the Nationals, San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers and Kansas City Royals.

* While the Orioles can’t spent their way into contention, one good investment might be Josh Willingham, who could play left field and first base. Willingham has had an .800-plus OPS in six consecutive seasons, even though he’s played in pitchers’ ballparks, including 2011 in Oakland. He could 30-35 home runs and hit .280 playing 81 games at Camden Yards.

* It’s not easy to replace manager Tony La Russa, but the St. Louis Cardinals couldn’t do any better than hiring either one of his coaches, Jose Oquendo or Joe Pettini. Each has managing experience, and each would make the transition from La Russa easier. Other teams have done similar moves in replacing legends. When Tom Kelly was done in Minnesota, the Twins hired his third base coach, Ron Gardenhire. Atlanta hired former Braves coach Fredi Gonzalez to take over for Bobby Cox, and the New York Yankees hired Joe Girardi to replace Joe Torre.

* There is lots of media speculation that the Nationals might go after free agent first baseman Prince Fielder, but with Adam La Roche returning, that doesn’t make sense. If the Nationals were going to spend big-time money, wouldn’t shortstop Jose Reyes, the National League batting champion, or another starter - Mark Buehrle or C.J. Wilson - be a better investment?

* If the Philadelphia Phillies go after Michael Cuddyer to be their primary right fielder, what does that say to their top outfielder prospect, Dominic Brown? Injuries slowed his progress last season. Cuddyer would be good for the Phillies because he can also play first base and the Phillies will be without Ryan Howard for at least the first two months of 2012.

* The Nationals might be in the market for free agent pitcher Roy Oswalt, but the question is: Which Oswalt would they get? He’s got a history of back problems. If healthy, he’d be a good addition.