Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette spent about 19 minutes tonight on a conference call with the local media and provided details on how the Orioles will proceed through the stages of their rebuilding process, with emphasis placed on a truer commitment to international scouting and analytics. They also will increase their front office staff and deepen the farm system in an attempt to gain ground on their competitors.
The actual plan has been laid out for everyone.
Trading shortstop Manny Machado was just one of the steps. And a necessary one given the financial restraints, though Duquette described it as a “bittersweet day” for the franchise.
Duquette is trying to work out a trade involving closer Zach Britton, but he said the Orioles aren’t as far down the road due to a slower-building market for a reliever coming off Achilles surgery. He also said the focus is on moving veteran players who are approaching free agency.
Here’s a sampling of Duquette’s comments:
“We watched Manny grow up in our franchise over the past eight years. We all know what an exceptional talent he is. From the great plays that he made to his elite hitting, he’s always going to be an important part of our club’s history and we want to wish Manny and his family the best. He’s a great kid. Got to know him real well. Saw some real growth in him over the years as he matured and became one of the top players in the major leagues and I wish him a lot of luck. And the Orioles organization will always have a warm spot in their heart for Manny Machado.
“We drafted him, signed him, developed him, and then we saw him go on and become a great star. And good luck in the National League. So, really, today is the start of a rebuilding process. We aim to retool our roster and bring the organization back to the competitive stature that we’re used to. We had some good years here and we were almost able to fulfill the ultimate goal for our fans, but we didn’t quite get there. But I think now it’s clear that we have a solid strategy for the future to rebuild our ballclub.”
On difficulty in parting with Machado: “That’s a tough decision. Clubs have to make the right decisions, the hard decisions, and when you do that you can be rewarded in the future. It became clear to us that it was time to turn our attention to the future. We tried to maintain a competitive club this year and that’s why we resisted the offers we had in the offseason to trade Manny. We felt that Manny’s presence would give us another good opportunity to contend as we had done here for the last several years, but when it became obvious that it was time to look to the future, trading Manny is the first step in our plan to rebuild our ballclub.
“It’s the first step in a multi-dimensional strategy to build a winning team back up for the future. Trading the veteran players for the younger players, it will be up to us to develop that talent and we’re going to have to utilize the draft, strengthen and deepen our farm system, and we want to acquire as many young players as we can to form the heart of a competitive team that will get us back into the pennant race for many years to come.”
On how deep the process goes: “We’re going to take a look at trading the veteran players. Our veteran players have done a nice job for us, but the ones that are nearing free agency, I think we need to evaluate our club going forward and at this time of year, the competitors are looking for the veteran players who have been seasoned in pennant races, as have our players. And we’re going to look to maximize that opportunity on the market and try to find as many good, young players as we can to deepen our farm system.
“In conjunction with that, we’re also going to be making significant investments this offseason in technology and analytics. We’re going to become more active on the international market and invest in our facilities and strengthen our overall baseball operation. That’s part of a plan that we have to have to get the Orioles back to competitiveness. But this is just the first step in a new direction.”
On whether talks for other veterans were significant and timeline for more trades: “Clubs have become more interested in Zach as he has regained his velocity and particularly the sink and movement on his pitch. So, we had a really good week this past week, so clubs have renewed their interest in Zach and we engaged other clubs on that front. But we’re not as far down the road in the process and I think that’s partly because clubs were waiting to see how Zach was throwing and exactly what role he could help on a pennant-contending team.
“So I think Zach has reestablished himself as one of the top closers in the league and now we can turn our attention toward that.”
On whether he feels he has chance at deadline to shorten rebuild process: “Well, we hope so. It’s a growing process, but the clubs that have done it recently have given us an instructive road map in what to follow and I think we have a good idea of what it takes to be consistently good. The thing about the American League East is it identifies your strength and it also identifies your weakness. We have identified a number of weaknesses we need to shore up as we move forward to have a competitive club. Certainly to compete against the really strong clubs in the American League East.
“Right now, we know we have a lot of work to do and to the extent that we can trade veteran players for the best young talent we can get that will help us get together the kind of talent base that we need to compete against these clubs in the future. But it’s also going to mean additional resources we’re going to have to put into our international recruiting. We’ve got some upgrading to with our professional scouting and the expansion of our international scouting department. As well as additional resources in analytics that we need to add to become more competitive.”
On why Dodgers’ offer over others: “We liked the depth of the Dodger package, we liked the quality of players in the package and we like Yusniel Díaz. The Dodgers invested a significant amount of money to sign Yusniel out of Cuba at a young age. They also paid a premium in terms of a tax within the structure of the industry and we haven’t had access to those players and this was an opportunity to access a player that we feel is a gifted hitter.
“We felt he was clearly the best player offered to us during this market and he was the key to the trade. But the other players in the trade also are very talented. The Dodgers have done an excellent job in terms of the depth and the quality of their farm system through the draft and international recruiting and we just like the talent that the Dodgers offered ahead of the other offers that we had. And we had some really good offers from some very competitive teams that have deep farm systems, but ultimately our staff, our baseball operation and our ownership group, we liked what the Dodgers were offering.”
On whether concern today that deal would fall through due to medicals: “That medical review is just part of the process that we go through. It’s part of the due diligence in player acquisitions. And we have a rigorous process and there were six players in this trade, so that took a little bit of time to go through that process. I didn’t see that as a real impediment to it. I think the expectation that everybody had that this deal was done when we were still in the process created a timeline that we couldn’t meet. We needed a little bit more time to complete the deal.
“We thought it was important for Manny to represent the Orioles in the All-Star Game. He earned the opportunity to be in the All-Star Game. The fans voted him in and he wanted to go and represent, not just represent himself but represent the Orioles, and the Orioles wanted Manny to represent our ballclub in the All-Star Game. I just think it was all part of the process and we needed a little bit more time to get through the process. Ultimately, this is the deal. We got some good, young talent back from the Dodgers and the Dodgers have a player that they hope will dramatically impact their season this year.”
On whether upgrades in international scouting and analytics are recent ideas: “It’s a plan that we’ve been working on for a while. We have the support of ownership and the people that have made the recommendations to advance in these areas, they’re on board. It’s a multi-dimensional plan. You have to do a number of things well to compete in professional sports, but we had identified the areas that we needed to improve in - technology, international scouting, facilities, the draft, strengthening our analytics, investing in our international scouting, investing in more front office staff to be more in line with our competitors, expanding our nutrition and wellness resources at every level of the organization. So those are areas that were identified that we can improve in and the ownership understands those are areas that we need to put more resources into.
“And when you finally decide to go in another direction and set sail in another direction, it’s difficult to get to that point where you say, ‘OK, we’re not going to be trying to win today, we’re going to try to put together the best talent we can get to win tomorrow. And that’s a very tough decision to make and all professional organizations have to make it, but we’ve recognized it, so this is the first step in a new direction. We acknowledged it and we traded Manny to start our work in a new direction, to look to the future.”
On his role with the club moving forward: “Well, I think everybody understands the changes that we need to make and Orioles fans should know how deeply committed we are to that plan of making these important adjustments. And like I said before, my heart is in Baltimore and I’d like to make the Orioles into a top contending organization again. Like I said, today’s a new direction for the organization. I’m glad to be helping the club go in that direction.”
Duquette offered appraisals on the new players, which included:
Díaz: “A really gifted hitter. He’s got really good strike zone judgment skills, good on-base capability and we think he’ll develop significant power in the future.”
Bannon: “We think he’s got the capability to develop into a solid ballplayer.”
Valera: “Is someone that we tried to pick up at the end of the spring. We didn’t acquire him, but we got him this time from the Dodgers. He’s a versatile player with good on-base skills.”
“The two pitchers we got, one is a potential backend of the bullpen (guy). That’s Pop. And also Kremer is having a great year. I think his numbers speak for themselves. He has an excellent repertoire, a deep repertoire and good control. We’re looking forward to adding all of these players to our organization.”