In case you missed yesterday’s edition of “The Mid-Atlantic Sports Report” - and there’s no excuse, since MASN replayed it at 11:30 p.m. - former executive Jim Duquette speculated that free-agent outfielder Josh Hamilton might have to settle for a deal in “the four-year range,” which could make the Orioles a potential suitor. I immediately thanked Duquette for stirring up the masses again.
Then we shared a laugh. You should have been there.
“Right now there are a bunch of teams sitting on the fringes,” Duquette said.
Duquette said he’s heard that the Brewers and Pirates are two teams with possible interest in Mark Reynolds if the first baseman hits the free-agent market, which is the expected outcome.
“The $9 million (in arbitration) is probably a little too expensive for what you get out of him,” Duquette said. “I don’t think the Orioles would be excluded from negotiating a deal beyond the tender date.
“I think you’ll have at least three or four teams interested in him.”
I asked Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette - yes, a relation - whether he’s confident that he can make a trade next week at the Winter Meetings.
“You never know, but there’s a number of teams that are looking to fill spots and there are a lot of players that are still out there that are free agents,” he replied. “We’ve had some exploratory talks with a number of teams on the trade market. We’ll follow up on them in Nashville. The good thing about this year is we have more depth in our organization, so the pitching depth that we have, and also the maturation of some players we drafted and signed who have come through our farm system, gives us more options internally for the team. We have more to talk about with other teams, as well.”
That was always the goal of former Orioles executive Andy MacPhail. Stockpile enough arms so they could help the major league club or be used in a trade to fill a need. In this case, Duquette is trying to acquire a hitter for the middle of the order.
“Young pitching is at a premium and we have some good young pitchers,” Duquette said. “A lot of teams liked (Chris) Tillman last year, right? We elected to hold onto him and he emerged as a good starter. We signed Steve Johnson last year around this time and he emerged as a qualified major leaguer. He did a nice job in starting and relief. And then we didn’t sign Miguel Gonzalez until just about the start of spring training and we were scouting him in winter ball.
“Teams like young pitching because there’s cost certainty there. We still have Zach Britton, who’s young. We have (Jake) Arrieta, who’s still young. We have Brian Matusz, who was the youngest player on the team when we started the season. And then on the horizon, beyond that, we have Dylan Bundy, who we know other teams like, and Kevin Gausman, who did well in his debut and also pitched in Double-A. We do have much better pitching depth now that we had a year ago. We’re fortunate to have some established major league starters in (Jason) Hammel and (Wei-Yin) Chen to support the young pitching.
“We have some young pitching that has pitched well in the big leagues. A year ago we had young pitching, and other than Britton, they hadn’t established themselves as winning pitchers in the big leagues. Now we have...Matusz seems to have found a role. He was a big plus pitching out of the bullpen. (Tommy) Hunter was a big plus pitching out of the bullpen. And Gonzalez, Tillman and Johnson all pitched well as starters.”
The Orioles are always in the market for pitching, but their best trade chips happen to be pitchers. Rival executives routinely inquire about them.
“Everyone’s looking for young pitching to help their ballclub,” Duquette said. “Our pitching staff is improved. I wouldn’t say it’s complete, but it’s improved.”