Appearing on the first edition of the “Orioles Hot Stove Show” on 105.7 the Fan, Duquette was asked to place odds on Britton being with the club on opening day.
“I think they’re good,” he replied. “I like Zach Britton. Obviously, there’s a lot of interest in him. He’s got one year left on his contract here, he’s been one of the top pitchers in the league. And in 2016, you could argue he was the best pitcher in the major leagues. He had an historic run.
“Clubs knew that the club was looking at some options around the trade deadline and there was a lot of interest in him, but we’d like to hold onto him for the team. He’s got a lot of value to our team, but I understand why other clubs would be interested in him. You’ve seen the value of relievers in the playoffs the last couple of years.
“He’s got a lot of value, but he’s got a lot of value to our team, too.”
Duquette made it clear that the Orioles aren’t considering a rebuild heading into the 2018 season despite the list of pending free agents that also includes Manny Machado, Adam Jones and Brad Brach. He’d rather be “all-in” and make another run at the postseason.
“I think that’s what people want,” he said. “We have some players who, the option year is coming up in their contracts. In this market, for 14 years, we had a team that was not competitive and lost more games than it won. When the team came back and was winning, the fans loved it. They came out and supported the club.
“We still have a pretty good core group. And I’ve got to tell you, that rebuilding, that’s not very much fun. You can sit here and you can talk about it, but it’s not very much fun. The Cubs and Houston, they lost 100 games a couple of times, and that was painful. They had a plan that they were going to lose that many games and they leveraged that to get the top picks in the draft. And fortunately, they invested properly.
“Losing 100 games to move up in the draft, that’s not very much fun. And the time I’ve been with the club, we’ve been drafting late, so we don’t have access to that kind of talent. And frankly, I’d just assume draft late and have a good ballclub and do as good as we can with the players that we have.”
Despite a report last night that the Orioles began negotiations on an extension for second baseman Jonathan Schoop, Duquette indicated that it’s a backburner issue.
“We certainly like Jon Schoop and we’d love to have him for the best part of his career, and we’re seeing that right now, but that’s a conversation for another day,” Duquette said.
As for Machado, who can become a free agent following the 2018 season, Duquette said, “Obviously, teams like him. How old is he, 25 years old? And he worked hard to get to the big leagues quickly and we’ve had some great years from him.
“He’s on the cusp of his free agency and I know he’s going to want to have a good year. The club has to decide if he’s going to be a long-term fixture in our lineup in Baltimore and I think that’s a decision for the club this offseason.”
Duquette repeated that his primary focus is addressing the starting rotation and he thinks it’s imperative to include a left-hander.
“It’s important to have that solid left-handed pitcher,” he said. “The Yankees generally staff their club with left-handed hitters so they can take advantage of their short porch in right field. If you can find a good left-handed pitcher, that’s a real competitive advantage. So, that’s on our shopping list, too. I think that’s a high priority.”
Duquette also said the club will have to be “resourceful” while attempting to upgrade the rotation, saying pitching can be found in many areas, including the international market and among the non-tenders.
Finding another left-handed bat also is a priority, with Duquette saying room can be made in the outfield and at designated hitter. He noted how first baseman Chris Davis needs to “step up.”
The Orioles will consider selecting a player in the Rule 5 draft, with Duquette talking about the temptation to grab a pitcher, despite Santander’s presence on the roster.
As expected, the Orioles will tender contracts to all seven of their arbitration-eligible players by Friday night’s deadline.
“I don’t think that’s really an issue for our club this year,” Duquette said.