Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette has been a guest of mine several times this season when I’ve hosted “Orioles Baseball Tonight” each Sunday on the O’s flagship radio station 105.7 The Fan FM in Baltimore.
Our last interview for this season on the show came Sunday. During that interview on 105.7 The Fan, Duquette said that he believes the Orioles can afford to sign Chris Davis to a new long-term deal. He also said improving the club’s pitching is his biggest offseason priority.
The Orioles have six pending free agents in Davis, Matt Wieters, Wei-Yin Chen, Darren O’Day, Gerardo Parra and Steve Pearce. To begin Sunday’s interview, I asked Duquette if he has had some discussions and/or contract talks yet with any of those players?
“We’ve had discussions with some of our free agents,” he said. “Obviously, we’d like to re-sign some of our players that have had good years. Chris Davis in particular has had a really good year. He’s done a real solid job his whole time in Baltimore. It’s no secret the club would like to have him to come back and we’re going to do what we can.
“We’re going to sign some free agents to help our team and we’re going to continue to build our team to be competitive year in and year out. But this focus in the offseason on payroll and free agents. Yeah, we’re going to do some of that and we’re going to have a good year next year, but let’s not get too over-focused on that. We’ve got the core of a good team returning as well.”
After a year where he hit .262, led the majors with 47 home runs and drove in 117 runs, Davis is in line for a huge contract. His agent, Scott Boras, is known for getting large contracts for his clients.
Can the Orioles even afford to re-sign Davis?
“We have a very competitive market and we fund our payroll about in the middle and we have some flexibility in our payroll for next year. So the answer to that question is I believe yes. I believe yes,” Duquette said.
“What his market price will be, I mean, everything has to have a semblance of reason to it. We try to take into account a number of things with each player that we sign. But to answer your question, I would say, you know, within reason, yeah.”
Is there a chance the club will talk contract with Davis and Boras before he officially hits free agency after the World Series?
“Well, that is always a possibility,” Duquette said. “In this situation, that is kind of a tough one. I don’t know that Scott has a long history of doing that with his clients. But that is an option that is open to the team.”
In this interview, after he was named Most Valuable Oriole for 2015 on Friday, Davis said it was disappointing that no substantive contract talks have taken place with the team. I asked Duquette for his reaction to that from Davis.
“We have made it clear to Chris that we like him and we’d like him to stay for the long term. We made an offer to sign him here long-term after the 2013 season, when he had an excellent year. And we’ve had recent discussions in regard to him staying with the club. Chris knows how Buck feels about him and how I feel about him. We obviously like Chris Davis. Whether we can sign him up long term, that is another issue, but we are going to try,” he said.
There are some that feel the Orioles will need to increase their payroll to improve their team. I asked Duquette if that was going to happen and if the club needed to add payroll to get back to contending?
“The thing that the Orioles need to do to get back to 90-some wins is have a better pitching staff,” he said. “We scored the same number of runs as last year. But we gave up 89 more going into (Sunday’s) game. To get back to where we need to be to get to the playoffs, we’re going to have to improve our pitching staff.
“There is some correlation between the size of your payroll and the competitiveness of your team. But I will say this again - we have plenty of resources here to be competitive. How we go about improving our pitching, that is our No. 1 priority in the offseason.
“We’re going to need to get better performance from the people that we have and we’re also going to need to add pitching depth from outside the organization.
“We’re going to have to roll up our sleeves, put our drawing board up there and get going. But we’re up for it. We’re going to assess where we fell short this year and then we’re going to get ready to staff the team to go it again next year,” Duquette said.