NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette spent part of today attending a luncheon honoring Fred Ferreira, the club’s executive director of international recruiting who was named “International Scout of the Year” by Major League Baseball. He also met, by his estimation, with four executives from other teams and three or four agents.
None of the agents represented Orioles who declared for free agency, which includes outfielder Nate McLouth and left-hander Joe Saunders.
“We’re still working on a couple of trade options to see if we can develop them to a point where we can make a trade, but we’re not quite there yet. It’s still a process,” Duquette said while meeting with reporters in his suite at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center.
“We’re kind of focused on filling out our lineup, our batting order. That’s kind of where we’re focusing. We think we’ve accumulated some solid pitching depth and there’s a surplus of starting pitching and also a surplus of relievers on the roster, so that’s not an immediate need, but we do need to fill out our ballclub. We need to fill out our lineup, our batting order.”
Despite that “surplus” in the bullpen, Duquette said the Orioles have room to add another reliever, whether it’s a right-hander or a left-hander.
“We’ve had discussions with a number of agents who represent pitchers, but most of our work today was on the trade market and signing position players,” he said.
Asked if he’s more or less confident now about pulling off a trade here, Duquette replied, “I don’t know what the timing of the deals will be, but we’re finding out what teams we’re compatible with and we’re narrowing our options.”
Duquette also said the arbitration-eligible players who were tendered contracts will cost the Orioles an additional $22 million in salary raises.
“The good news is that those players will be on our roster and that they earned the money by having good years,” Duquette said. “I think it’s important for people to focus on, the team is paying the players the money that are producing for the ballclub.”
Duquette said he doesn’t really focus on specifics of the budget “because I don’t think it’s productive to talk about that. But I do know that we have enough money to field a competitive team. We have a foundation for a competitive team. And I also know that this past year’s team connected with the fans, so we have more interest in the team, which will allow us to be a little bit more aggressive as we put our team together, be a little bit more aggressive in terms of the amount of money we can put toward our major league payroll.
“We’re closer to the bottom 10 and I don’t think we’re going to get in the top 10 anytime soon. Our market is our market. Our market hasn’t really changed dramatically, but we have connected with the fans, so there’s more interest in our market. But the market size and what’s available to field a team, that hasn’t really changed. What has changed is that our ballclub was good on the field and we connected with the fans, so there’s more interest. But to focus on a number, of where we’re at, that is not going to help us meet our goals. And frankly, I don’t think our fans are that focused on it.
“We have to compete with teams in the American League East, and talking about what we have to put toward it is not going to get that job done.”
Asked if there’s a limit on the number of years he can offer a free agent, Duquette replied, “No, but I think that the less the years, the less risk the team takes.”
Duquette won’t address specific rumors, but he said, “I think the feedback that we’re getting is players are interested in Baltimore, they’re interested in what we did this past year, so that we have players that are interested in the opportunity when it comes up, which I think is a good thing. As far as the number of rumors, I couldn’t comment on that. It’s that time of the year, right?”