Jones, who’s represented by Nez Balelo of CAA Sports, is two seasons away from free agency. Jones has been the subject of trade rumors, most notably involving the Atlanta Braves, despite Duquette’s insistence that he wants to build around the center fielder.
When asked today about a possible extension for Jones, Duquette said, “We’re not focused on that right now.”
Is it something that could be revisited further down the road?
“It’s a possibility,” Duquette replied, “but right now we’re focused on building the team.”
Ray Poitevint, the Orioles’ new executive director of international baseball, will be in charge of scouting Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Mexico, both on the amateur and professional levels.
“He’s a veteran baseball executive and a very good talent scout,” Duquette said. “He’s signed a number of good players at the amateur level and placed a number of players in the professional leagues. He started his career with the Orioles and he signed some very good players for them, including Doug DeCinces, Eddie Murray and Dennis Martinez. He’s been around. He’s a good, veteran baseball man. He’ll be a good resource in those markets.”
Today’s signing of Taiwanese left-hander Wei-Yin Chen to a three-year deal with a club option for 2015 doesn’t necessarily take the Orioles out of the market for another starter. Duquette was vague about his plans beyond stating that “We’re going to continue building the team.”
“We’ve added pitching depth,” Duquette said. “The reason we’ve added starters is to add innings to our staff. We only had one starter (Jeremy Guthrie) throw 200 innings last year. We’re adding pitchers who are capable of giving us innings. That’s how you build a quality major league staff.”
Asked about the abundance of starters who will report to spring training on Feb. 18, Duquette replied, “We have plenty of candidates. We would like for some of these candidates to distinguish themselves and win more games than they lose.
“We can have some of our pitchers here and some of them in the minors ready to win for us later. And we have some pitchers who have been starters who can be considered for bullpen roles. There are a lot of different things that you can do with good pitchers.
“We’re going to continue to build the team. I don’t know that I can tell you where our focus is right now.”
Could a trade be in the works, with some of this pitching being used to bring a hitter in return?
“The idea is adding pitchers who give us innings so we can build our own staff,” Duquette said.
Duquette said the Orioles targeted Chen a few years ago because they knew he would become a free agent this winter.
“We spent a considerable amount of time following him in Japan the last couple of years,” Duquette said. “Our scouts saw him and then we monitored his performance through stats and followed him on video. He has a compact, smooth, deceptive delivery and he has a good fastball and very good command of it. Also, he has a hard breaking slurve. He’s 26 and has excelled in that league. He’s got a lifetime WHIP of 1.06 and a lifetime ERA of 2.48. That’s good in any league. He’s a 26-year-old left-handed pitcher. Those are all things that we liked about him. And he has the stuff to be a winning starting pitcher in the big leagues. He has the stuff and experience to be a top-of-the-rotation starter, and to win more games than he loses.”
Last week, I heard that the Orioles were going to hold a mini-camp of sorts at Camden Yards in the days leading up to FanFest. I asked Duquette for specifics, and he explained that it’s an “orientation” for a dozen younger pitchers and catchers, along with Rule 5 pick Ryan Flaherty.
“It’s sort of a meet-and-greet, and a follow up on their conditioning and skills training, which we’ll do next week prior to FanFest,” Duquette said.