Dan Duquette’s 5 Best Moves as Baltimore Orioles General Manager
Dan Duquette's 5 Best Moves as Baltimore Orioles General Manager
Let’s face it. The Baltimore Orioles missed out on their first few choices for general manager last offseason. They won’t admit it, but they had a few other guys atop their general manager wish list. However, as is becoming a theme with the Orioles, they weren’t able to get their first choice for general manager.
Buck Showalter wasn’t the Orioles first choice as manager. They wanted Joe Girardi then Bobby Valentine. Instead they got Showalter and I think it’s safe to say the Orioles are grateful that it turned out this way. The same has come true with Dan Duquette. Out of baseball nearly ten years after being fired by the Boston Red Sox in 2002, Duquette was hired by the Orioles in November of 2011 after they failed to get their first choices.
This has become another blessing in disguise for the Orioles and their fans. Duquette has done a masterful job with what he was given. With very little time Duquette brought in respected baseball talent evaluators like new director of pitching development Rick Peterson (credited for the turnaround of Chris Tillman) and executive director of international recruiting Fred Ferreira (credited for finding Miguel Gonzalez). Duquette also has made numerous under the radar moves signing veteran players to minor league deals when other teams assumed they were washed up. Not all of them have worked out (Miguel Tejada, Jamie Moyer, J.C. Romero), but the ones that have worked helped the Orioles get into the playoffs for the first time in 15 seasons.
Traded Jeremy Guthrie for Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom
How many people thought Duquette made a bad trade when he sent the Orioles number one starter Jeremy Guthrie to the Colorado Rockies for a journeyman starter Jason Hammel and reliever Matt Lindstrom? I see a lot of hands raised. Despite recent injuries, Hammel became the Orioles top starter and a better pitcher than Guthrie. In 20 starts this season, Hammel is 8-6 with a 3.43 ERA. The Orioles have Hammel under team control next season (unlike Guthrie who is a free agent) and can pencil him into the top of their rotation for 2013.
Don’t forget the significance of Lindstrom. If the deal were Hammel straight up for Guthrie, the Orioles still would have gotten the better of the deal. Instead they also received Lindstrom who was a reliable piece to the Orioles bullpen for most of the season. Duquette was then able to trade Lindstrom to the Arizona Diamondbacks for veteran starter Joe Saunders, who has become another key piece to the Orioles rotation.
Signed Wei-Yin Chen to 3 Year Deal
Wei-Yin Chen, like all international signings, was an unknown commodity for the Orioles going into 2012. Chen is a part of Duquette’s pledge to have the Orioles more focused on international scouting. So far it has worked. Chen was signed in the offseason along with Tsuyoshi Wada who missed the entire 2012 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Chen’s ceiling was thought to be that of a middle of the rotation starter. He has reached that ceiling and became one of the Orioles most consistent pitchers in 2012.
Chen pitched in 32 starts in 2012 with a 21-11 record and 4.02 ERA. The Taiwanese pitcher provided the Orioles with a solid one-two punch along with Hammel atop the Orioles rotation. Chen was signed to a three year, $11 million dollar deal last offseason and gives the Orioles a cheap middle of the rotation option for next few years.
Signed Miguel Gonzalez to Minor League Deal
As was mentioned earlier in this article, Gonzalez was picked up by executive director of international recruiting Fred Ferreira out of Mexico. Gonzalez had pitched in the majors before with the Los Angeles Angels and was in the Red Sox organization as well. Gonzalez wasn’t a complete unknown, but he also wasn’t a high profile international signing. Duquette and Ferreira deserve a lot of credit for finding Gonzalez. Gonzalez finished 2012 going 9-2 with a 3.25 ERA, while pitching excellent in some big games.
Signed Nate McLouth to Minor League Deal
Nate McLouth is a former All-Star and gold glove outfielder. That was in 2008. McLouth has since struggled mightily and was ignored by other teams. Duquette made another shrewd move that was low risk, high reward in signing McLouth to a minor league contract back in June. McLouth spent a majority of the season in the minors after being let go by the Pittsburgh Pirates. McLouth was able to stabilize the Orioles outfield defense in left field and provided the team with arguably the best defensive outfield in the majors.
McLouth has also stepped in as the team’s leadoff hitter since Nick Markakis’ injury. McLouth hit .268 with a .342 OBP (Duquette put an emphasis on acquiring players who can get on base) and 12 stolen bases while playing with the Orioles. His numbers don’t tell the entire story. McLouth has been a huge addition for Duquette and the Orioles. McLouth likely will get a major league contract in the offseason and Duquette may be the person giving it to him.
Signed Luis Ayala to 1 Year Deal
Luis Ayala, despite a strong 2011 season, was an afterthought in the offseason. While other big name relievers received lucrative contracts, Ayala was still available well into February. Duquette used this as an opportunity to add another important piece to what became the Orioles biggest strength. Ayala may not throw 100 mph or have closing experience, but he was an important part of the Orioles middle relief.
Sure Jim Johnson lead the majors with 51 saves, but Ayala and the Orioles middle relief deserves an assist for acting as the bridge between the starters and Johnson. Ayala pitched in 66 games in 2012 totaling 75 innings with a 2.64 ERA. Thanks to Duquette and another great move, the Orioles can pick up Ayala’s $1 million option for 2013 if they so choose.