Covering a lot of ground with Dan Duquette

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. - One of the hottest rumors of the day centered on the Mets offering outfielder Curtis Granderson to the Orioles for reliever Brad Brach. However, there doesn’t appear to be much traction.

Granderson is owed $15 million next season and the Mets don’t seem inclined to eat salary, according to reports. The Orioles don’t seem inclined to add much payroll beyond raises for their arbitration-eligible players unless it’s spent to re-sign Mark Trumbo, and the sides are far apart.

The Orioles knew that their relievers were going to attract attention at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center. Brach is just one of them.

“There’s a lot of interest in our bullpen because it’s a good bullpen and that’s been one of the staples of the team, so we want to keep that strength intact. But we do have some good solid relievers,” said executive vice president Dan Duquette.

duquette-showalter-talking-sidebar.jpg“(Zach) Britton had a great year, Brach made the All-Star team, Darren O’Day’s been very consistent, Mychal Givens is really good, Donnie Hart has been strong. So we have some good pitchers there and we think we have some depth also in our minor leagues to help the bullpen this year.”

Closer Mark Melancon received a four-year deal from the Giants worth $62 million. That’s tip money for what Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen are seeking on the free agent market.

And here sit the Orioles, flush in relievers and deciding whether it’s wise to trade from a strength.

“Melancon got a nice contract,” Duquette said. “He’s been a dependable closer and he was traded this year. You saw the value of relievers in the playoffs. Andrew Miller pitched effectively and Chapman pitched a lot of innings. We’re glad that’s a strength of our team. But certainly clubs are investing in the best relief pitchers in record-setting fashion. So we’ll see where that market goes.”

The Orioles didn’t want to pay Jim Johnson $10 million in arbitration and traded him to the Athletics at the non-tender deadline. MLBTradeRumors.com projects Britton at $11.4 million, which doesn’t seem too rich for the Orioles’ blood.

“Zach had a great year,” Duquette said. “He perfected that sinkerball and put together a fantastic year. He’s not on the cusp of free agency. He has two years to go.

“Zach Britton deserves a good raise. He had a great year.”

Duquette didn’t report any progress in talks with Trumbo or the club’s pursuit of another outfielder. The Orioles are willing to go four years, according to a source, but not in the $70-$80 million range and not with a full no-trade clause.

“Nothing has really changed from our perspective,” Duquette said. “We’re still looking around. We want to improve our defense next year if we can in the outfield.

“We’d like to get some balance to our roster. We have some right-handed power hitters who play in the infield, so we’d like to balance that out with a left-handed power hitter or a left-handed hitter in the outfield.”

There appear to be similarities between the Trumbo and Chris Davis negotiations. Two home run leaders, one team unsure how far it can extend talks without losing out on other players.

Managing general partner Peter Angelos became involved in the Davis negotiations. No sign of that happening so far with Trumbo.

“I think every situation is different,” Duquette said. “It will be interesting to see how this qualifying offer plays out in this market, because the qualifying offer this year is still strong from a compensation perspective. A team gets a strong compensation package in exchange for a qualifying offer, a player signing with another club, so we’ll have to see how that plays out. Next year, the compensation is diluted under the basic agreement.”

The Orioles haven’t moved on from free agent catcher Matt Wieters, but they’re obviously preparing for life without him. They tendered Caleb Joseph a contract and are pursuing a veteran backstop while Chance Sisco gains more Triple-A experience. And yes, they’ll go two years on a free agent catcher.

“We have a young catcher in Chance Sisco who we have good reports on and he continues to improve every step of the way,” Duquette said. “He’s a good hitter. And Caleb we hope comes back and gives us some good service.

“Matt’s a free agent, so he’s not with the club.”

Did Jason Castro’s three-year, $24.5 million contract with the Twins change the catching market?

“The evaluation that some clubs make or recently made was to invest in the framing metrics and to invest in a meaningful way in the framing metrics. So, I think that discussion is going to continue,” Duquette said.

“I think a catcher is a very, very important part of the team and we look very carefully of all aspects of the catcher and how he impacts the game both defensively and offensively and a human resource in terms of managing the game, so it’s an important position. It’s an important hire for any team.”

Do the Orioles need an offensive-minded veteran catcher to pair with Joseph, who batted .174/.216/.197 with no RBIs in 141 plate appearances? The answer isn’t clear, but the club expects Sisco to hit when he’s ready for his promotion.

“We have a good left-handed hitting prospect in Chance Sisco,” Duquette said. “A lot of clubs would like to have Chance Sisco and we’re glad we have him. I’m not sure he’s going to be ready to start the season. And we have some other depth behind him. But I would like to see us add another veteran catcher to our club.”

Joseph should get a mulligan for the testicular injury and ensuing surgery.

“Caleb had an injury and I think that set him back quite a bit and that affected his year overall,” Duquette said. “He also needs to reestablish his value as an offensive player. He handles the pitchers well, day in and day out. But I know he wants to be a productive hitter, too, and he’s shown that he’s a good hitter.”

Sisco is ticketed for the Triple-A Norfolk Tides. How long he stays with them is largely up to him.

“We would like to find a veteran catcher who can help us until Chance Sisco defines his future,” Duquette said. “I don’t know the answer. He’ll have to define his own future, right? Buck (Showalter) will send him out there and we’ll watch him play.”

“He needs more experience catching. That’s a tough position to learn, right? There are so many things that go into being a good catcher. Setting up, managing your pitchers, understanding their strengths, controlling the running game, working with the field staff, understanding situations, counts, and then hitting, right?

“He’s shown the capability to hit, he’s shown the capability to get on base and he’s showing good athletic ability. He needs some more experience.”

The Orioles have six starters for five spots. Other teams can do the math.

“We’ve had some teams talk to us about the starters on our pitching staff. I don’t think that’s a real priority for the club,” Duquette said.

“We have a number of veteran pitchers and then we have some young guys who have emerged. They’re all at the stage of their careers where they should be able to give us some good service and pitch some good games for us.”

machado-gray-smiling.jpgManny Machado isn’t a free agent until the end of the 2018 season, but he’s also been a hot topic as Duquette is pressed on whether the club is engaging in extension talks. Not at this point.

The Orioles must determine when they could get maximum value for Machado in a trade if they see no hope of extending him.

“I think that depends on a number of different things,’ Duquette said. “The player, his abilities, the market, age of the player. I’m not sure. I like the way Manny fits in with the Orioles.”

What about the way $400 million would fit in their budget?

“I noticed the other day when I picked up the Daily News, Manny was in pinstripes,” Duquette said with a laugh. “I kind of like him in the Orioles uniform.”

Don’t obsess over his use of “kind of.” The understatement was intentional.

As for how Duquette mostly spent his day, he said, “We worked on our Rule 5 draft list and then we met with a couple clubs and we just wrapped up a few meetings with agents. We’re looking for a catcher and to add to our outfield depth. That’s what we’re working on, so that’s where our efforts are focused.

“We have a lot of people interested in some of our relievers. That’s what we’ve been doing. Those are the markets we’ve been working in today.”

The Orioles could go in any direction in the Rule 5 draft.

“There’s a few guys on Rule 5 that we’re going to keep looking at to see if we can add a player or two to our team to give us some depth,” Duquette said. “We’re looking at catchers, we’re looking at outfielders, we’re looking at pitchers. There’s a couple infielders, too, but our shopping list is pretty clear.”

There’s nothing hot on the international market.

“We’re always looking at the international market,” Duquette said. “I don’t know that we’ve identified that player this year.”

Steve Pearce signed a two-year, $12.5 million contract with the Blue Jays today. The Orioles must have held interest in him.

“For how many times?” Duquette quipped. “There’s always interest in bringing Steve Pearce back. How could we say ‘no’ to that question? He got a nice deal. Congratulations.”

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