So the Orioles have 13 games remaining in the 2018 season. And that could mean just 13 games remaining for the club’s two top baseball operations decision-makers. Both executive vice president Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter have contracts that expire at the end of the season.
There have been no announcements yet from the club on the futures with the Orioles of one or both men. During an appearance Sunday on “Orioles Baseball Tonight” on 105.7 FM the Fan, Duquette was asked if he has heard about his status yet beyond the 2018 season.
“I don’t know. I’ve been consistent in saying I’ve got a lot invested in Baltimore baseball. My heart’s here. And I’m happy to lead the rebuild and looking forward to it. But I don’t control those things,” Duquette said.
Duquette is heading up the rebuilding process unless and until he’s told he’s not. So it was fair on Sunday to ask Duquette about the club’s interest in Cuban outfielder Victor Victor Mesa. The 22-year-old Mesa has now been cleared to sign as an international amateur with any club. Major League Baseball has also cleared his brother, 17-year-old Victor Mesa Jr., to sign.
“I think they will work out in the next month or so for all the clubs, and we will scout them,” Duquette said. “The Orioles are very active, in not just scouting players in the international market, but we’re going to sign them. We’ve signed about half a dozen players, and some good ones, from the Dominican.
“When we made the trade with the Braves with Kevin Gausman we picked up some additional signing bonus cap money that we can utilize. So we are in good position to re-engage and sign players on the international market. Something that we hadn’t done for the last couple of years, but we are in the position to do that aggressively.”
According to MLB.com, the Orioles have approximately $6.7 million remaining in cap space to sign players. The Marlins have the next highest amount remaining, at $4.3 million, followed by the Rays, at $3.6 million.
So does that make the Orioles the favorites to get Victor Victor Mesa?
“I would never handicap anything like that, but the Orioles are currently scouting and signing several international players. He’s the top name on MLB’s international prospect list. We don’t have that significant a scouting portfolio on him. We saw him in the (World Baseball Classic), so we’re going to have to get up to speed,” Duquette said.
Duquette would not bite when I suggested that Mesa is the perfect player to sign to excite the fan base and, in effect, announce to the rest of the teams that the Orioles are back in the business of international signings.
“Well, we are back in the international game and we do have the resources, and we want to make the right choices to get the most out of those resources,” he said.
Duquette will not say publicly that the Orioles intend to do everything they can to sign Mesa.
“Have I ever done that? But there are some good players on the international market and our guys are working hard on that,” he added.
Can other teams still acquire international bonus money to threaten Baltimore’s hold on having the largest pool amount remaining?
“There is a certain amount of cap space you can acquire,” Duquette said. “There is an opportunity for other clubs to add to their cap space. But there’s only so much liquidity in the market. So a lot of the players for this signing period and a lot of the cap space has already been spoken for.
“We acquired a significant resource, I think we got $2.75 million in addition to our cap space, which was $5.5 million to start with. So that gives us a pretty good war chest to go out into the market and sign players. That signing period just started in July. We have committed some money to kids 16 and 17 years old that we like. (Isaac) Bellony we like, a switch-hitting center fielder, and (Moises) Ramirez, a shortstop we really like a lot. And we’re going to sign some other players and I think it will really add to our prospect base.”
Cedric was entertaining: Orioles center fielder Cedric Mullins had quite an impact on the club’s 8-4 win Sunday over the Chicago White Sox. He went 4-for-5 with a double, a run scored and an RBI. He also stole his first base in the majors. He made a great catch, robbing former Oriole Welington Castillo on a drive into left-center in the sixth.
“It was exciting and a great team win,” said Mullins, who went 7-for-12 in the weekend series. “For me to contribute in a big way today - had a solid defensive play, was able to tag on a big RBI so our closers could come on and finish the deal. Just a matter of sticking with my approach, trusting myself and putting good wood on the ball.”
Mullins stole 21 bases in 22 attempts this season on the farm between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk. But Sunday he got his first in the majors, in his 32nd Orioles game.
“It took me a little time to get that rhythm in Triple-A as well. Those guys, they notice you are out there. They notice the guys that have speed and guys that they have to keep a close eye on. Just a matter of continuing to study the pitchers and learn their tendencies,” he said.
Mullins and Jonathan Villar combined for seven hits in the win. Mullins believes he and Villar can spark the offense from the top of the order.
“I feel like it. We both have aggressive styles. He’s kind of guiding me in terms of learning the times to steal bases. There is a lot I can learn from him. To have that dynamic at the top of the order can be huge.”