It’s possible that the Orioles will announce today that they’ve signed former Giants outfielder Francisco Peguero. And it’s likely that the news will be met with more sarcasm.
Is executive vice president Dan Duquette aware of, or concerned about, negative fan reaction to the Jim Johnson trade?
“I think that’s natural when you have changes to your club or to your roster,” he said. “I think the important thing for our players and our fans to know is that we’re going to do everything we can to have a competitive team here year in and year out. When I talk about reallocating the resources, if I trade a pitcher for an infielder and the infielder makes $10 million less than the pitcher I traded, then I have $10 million to go out and staff the team in other areas, to sign players with. So I would ask people to wait until we’re done shaping our ballclub here for the 2014 season. We have some time to do it.
“We’re returning a really good ballclub on the field, and our challenge will be to surround those core players with some good complimentary players, so we need to find a solution for left field and we need to find somebody to DH and we need to continue to build the pitching staff.”
Did Duquette change his mind about tendering Johnson a contract, which led to the trade?
“The market is dynamic,” he said. “The market changes all the time, right? It’s not a static line. It’s a dynamic market and it changes. In regard to the relief pitcher market, there were several on the market, either through free agency or a non-tender or trade, so there were other options for the team to consider. And the reliever market, that’s a pretty dynamic market, probably the most dynamic market in terms of ups and downs.
“Jimmy Johnson did a good job for the club and he was an Oriole his whole career. We certainly appreciate his contribution and his leadership for the team. And it’s always a tough decision. It’s a tough personal decision. But I think you have to take a look at those choices in the context of the market for major league relievers, too.”
What will Duquette do with the money saved in the Johnson trade?
“We’re going to go and sign some other players, and you’ll see in the next couple of weeks that we’ll reinvest that money and sign some other players to staff the team,” he said. “I can tell you that we’re going to do everything we can to have a competitive team and I think we’re going to have a good team. I like our pitching staff. I like the stability of our pitching staff going into next season more than I have the last couple of years, and we’re going to continue to add to it.
“We’re going to have a competitive, compelling and entertaining major league team that our fans will be proud to support.”
Is Duquette feeling any pressure to make a move in wake of the deals being struck by other clubs?
“We’re still on course for staffing our ballclub,” he said. “I got the sense that the market was going to move quickly at the GM meetings, and it has. I don’t have any idea why, but I could tell that teams were focused at the GM meetings on what they were going to try to do for their teams.”
Is Duquette under orders to reduce the payroll?
“We’re not reducing our payroll,” he said. “The payroll was $82 million at the end of 2012 season, and last year it was over $95 million, so our payroll will be upwards of that this year. If somebody believes that the team is reducing the payroll, the team isn’t reducing the payroll. The team is reallocating resources.
“In regard to closers that make over $10 million, so far there’s been two. One of them you know very well. He enjoyed a lot of success and he’s en route to the Hall of Fame. That’s Mariano Rivera. And the other reliever is (Jonathan) Papelbon. So it’s not something that clubs commonly do. Clubs don’t ordinarily pay their closer 10 percent of their salary budget. It’s generally not done in the industry. It wasn’t done in New York and it wasn’t done in Philadelphia. The Orioles made the same determination that the rest of the industry made.
“If you have 100 marbles and you have to give 10 to your closer, then you have 90 for the rest of your team, right? If you were to allocate five or six marbles to that position and you give 10, then you have to find four other marbles somewhere else that you will be taking away from one of your other players. So we just felt, given that Jimmy Johnson was going to be a free agent at the end of the year and there are quite a few experienced closers available on the board, that we would trade the player’s contract and restaff our team.
“The other issue is that the players who had good years who are core players on the team, they’re due an increase based on the current system. So players like Chris Davis and Matt Wieters, they’re due raises based upon how they performed within the system. The club has to fund those. A year ago, we funded over $22 million in raises for players who were in the arbitration system. And then this year, we have nine players in the system and a number of them will be receiving raises.
“That perception that the team is lowering payroll, that’s not accurate. That’s not the case. The team has increased payroll in past years and is prepared to do that again this year.”
Duquette confirmed what I wrote yesterday morning about the Orioles talking contract extension with Johnson’s agent prior to the trade.
“We explored that,” he said, “but it didn’t look like there was a fit.”