Photo credit - Gene J. Puskar/AP
The Orioles opened up the season looking like one of the best teams in baseball, going 22-10 in their first 32 games. Then reality set in and over the last 34 games the Orioles have gone 10-24. This is a bad team. Very bad. Someone has to be held accountable. That someone is the man who constructed this team - Dan Duquette.
Duquette's philosophy has been to grow the arms and buy the bats. Meaning developing pitchers through the farm system and paying for hitters through free agency. Most Orioles fans view his free agency signings as dumpster diving - signing another team's castoff who is looking to rejuvenate their career. Although the Orioles have been successful under Duquette, many of his moves have put the team in the position they are in now.
Pitching prospects traded away
In 2013, coming off the club's first winning season and playoff appearance in 15 years, Duquette traded away pitchers Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop to the Cubs for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger. Arrieta, once a promising pitching prospect for the Orioles, could never put it all together until he got to the Cubs where he now has a World Series ring, CY Young award and two no-hitters under his belt.
Duquette also traded away outfielder LJ Hoes, another promising pitching prospect Josh Hader and a 2014 competitive balance draft pick to the Astros for Bud Norris. Norris didn't help much in 2013 but did help the following year when he went 15-8 with a 3.65 ERA and pitching 6 1/3 innings to clinch the ALDS against the Tigers. However, this trade hurt in the long term as Hader entered 2017 as the #33 ranked prospect and the #1 left-handed pitching prospect in all of baseball. Duquette did make one of his better trades in November 2013, acquiring Brad Brach from the Padres for minor league pitcher Devin Jones.
The biggest trade Duquette has made for the Orioles happened in 2014 when he traded away another top pitching prospect, left-handed pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez to the Red Sox for Andrew Miller. Rodriguez has gone 17-15 with a 4.10 ERA for the Sox but has also battled injuries his whole career. This trade doesn't hurt as much because Miller was an impact player. He took the Orioles bullpen to another level and helped the O's reach the ALCS. What hurts is Duquette refused to pay Miller because he was out of the club's price range. The Yankees signed Miller to a 4 year/36 million dollar contract only for Duquette to turn around and give Darren O'Day a 4 year/31 million dollar contract. Now Miller is one of the best relievers in baseball and O'Day can't stay healthy. Was $5 million really the difference between being in or out of the Orioles price range?
The last pitching prospect Duquette traded away was in 2015. The Orioles were in search for outfield help and sent top pitching prospect, Zach Davies, to the Brewers for Gerardo Parra. In 2017, Davies was the Brewers' opening day starter and holds a 7-3 record with 4.91 ERA. Over three years (48 games) Davies is 21-12 with a 4.19 ERA.
For someone with the philosophy of growing the arms, Duquette doesn't seem to value prospects. Further proof of that is some of his free agent signings and draft picks - or lack of draft picks.
Duquette has overseen six drafts for the Orioles. His first draft was in 2012 and the Orioles selected Kevin Gausman with the #4 overall pick. Gausman was looked at as a top of the rotation starter. He has shown that potential especially the second half of last season but has taken a huge step back in 2017. In 2013 the Orioles selected pitcher Hunter Harvey with the #22 pick and outfielder Josh Hart at #37. Harvey, once a top 100 prospect, is recovering from Tommy John surgery. There is still hope for Harvey with him only being 22 years old. Hart, on the other hand, has been a huge disappointment.
The 2014 draft might be Duquette's biggest blunder. Duquette signed Ubaldo Jimenez to a 4 year 50 million dollar contract - the biggest and worst contract the Orioles have ever given out to a free agent pitcher. It also cost the Orioles the #17 pick. Combine that with the Orioles trading away their competitive balance pick and losing their second round pick for signing Nelson Cruz, and the Orioles are looking at their first pick of the draft in the third round.
2015 saw the Orioles take outfielder DJ Stewart with the #25 pick and shortstop Ryan Mountcastle with the #36 pick. Stewart has been a disappointment so far but Mountcastle, who many thought was a reach at #36, has had a strong 2017 season and looks to be on the rise. Another bad free agent signing hurt the Orioles 2016 draft. The Orioles forfeited the #14 pick for signing Yovani Gallardo but were able to get pitcher Cody Sedlock, now the team's top pitching prospect, with the #27 pick.
Just last week the Orioles selected high schooler DL Hall, a left-handed pitcher, with the #21 pick in the 2017 draft. This might have been one of the best picks the Orioles have had under Duquette. Many scouts were surprised Hall was available when the Orioles were on the board and view him as possibly the best pitcher in the draft.
I know Duquette isn't solely responsible for the draft but he is responsible for overseeing the scouting department. The lack of scouting and development is why the Orioles have one of the worst farm systems in baseball. Many of Duquette's past decisions have put this team in the position they are currently in. He refuses to invest in pitching. Well, good pitching that is. Instead, he constantly states his philosophy is growing the arms but contradicts that by trading away top pitching prospects and forfeiting draft picks for bad free agent signings. It's impossible to grow the arms when you trade away the quality arms you do have, especially when you trade them away without getting value in return.
It's no secret that there is friction between Duquette and manager Buck Showalter. Both their contracts end after the 2018 season. There have been rumors that Showalter might want to leave the dugout and step into the front office as Duquette's replacement. It's almost certain that both won't be re-signed when their contracts expire. That's if Duquette even lasts till then. But if it comes down to either Duquette or Showalter staying I think I can speak for most fans - it won't be, or at least better not be, Duquette.
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