Alas, it took a while, but I think we've stumbled upon the manner in which Dan Duquette does his job as the Orioles' executive vice president of baseball operations. Mostly, it's days and weeks of being on the phone and reading old Sporting News while preaching patience and waiting, waiting and waiting ... long pause ... for other teams to make mistakes.
From day one of the offseason, the stated objective of the ballclub was to lay its hands on a starting pitcher not good enough to command huge money, and not young enough to command a lengthy contract -- maybe someone who might have been special in the past and at least had the potential to do it again.
Perhaps a guy like right-hander Bronson Arroyo, a free agent this offseason who, at press time, had reportedly agreed to terms on a two-year deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Although he didn't reach the special tag, Arroyo seemed to be a guy who could win a double-digit number of games in 2014 while knocking off 200 innings pitched with nary a sore this or that to put him on the disabled list. In other words, a guy like former Oriole Jeremy Guthrie (oops).
To be sure, the Birds have made countless moves during the last few months, but, mainly, they involved the 38th, 39th and 40th spots on the team's 40-man roster. It'd be interesting to listen to Duquette talk about some of these acquisitions. If you read between the lines, you get the idea most of these gents are just about ready to show up in the major leagues and be good players.
Thing is, you believe Duquette because you feel he's been checking on these guys and is conversant about them since they graduated from high school. Who knows whether a guy is a good base runner and can steal bases in the bigs if his name isn't "Sliding" Billy Hamilton? Duquette does.
The first time we checked on the Orioles following the end of the 2013 season, a newspaper headline revealed "Duquette wants to keep J. Johnson." It was a housekeeping-type story, wherein Duquette was asked who among the team's players entering arbitration or free agency would be tendered a contract for the 2014 season.
Uh-oh, talk about the kiss of death. Seemingly seconds later, the Orioles traded closer Jim Johnson to the Oakland Athletics for Jemile Weeks, yet another minor league second baseman. The explanation was fairly clear; the club didn't want to pay Johnson $10 million for one season, much less that much or more for multiple seasons.
If that wasn't an indication that the Orioles were sticking to their long-standing habit of not handing out big contracts, what followed quickly was. Whoever had a chance to move did, usually being ushered into free agency because he wasn't offered a contract to possibly keep him away from arbitration.
So then Duquette's task was to get not only a frontline pitcher -- oh yeah, Scott Feldman, who came to Baltimore in 2013 as part of a trade with the Chicago Cubs, added to the need when he signed with the Houston Astros -- but also a proven closer, a left-handed bat to serve as a designated hitter, another outfielder, another pitcher (because Duquette loves pitching) and several more minor leaguers. If those minor leaguers came with options, so much the better.
One thing all the inaction has led to is baseball writers and columnists using all the tricks and ingenuity they have to produce stories about the team. Sportscasters come up with an idea once in a while, too. Among these was a terrific stretch some time ago about Duquette's top five moves that helped steer the team turnaround.
At the top of the list was trading Guthrie to Colorado for starter Jason Hammel and reliever Matt Lindstrom. Guthrie was awful in Colorado, but has been excellent in Kansas City. Think the O's would like to have him back now?
Hammel was pretty good in Baltimore, but was frequently injured, and Lindstrom's main purpose for the Orioles was to get starting pitcher Joe Saunders from Arizona via trade late during the 2012 season. Saunders did well, but somebody forgot to re-sign him. He must have wanted more money.
Next, the Orioles' signing of starter Miguel Gonzalez was a splendid move, proving Orioles scouts know what they're looking at. And latching onto outfielder Nate McLouth was a good move, too, but he was allowed to flee the scene after the 2013 season.
What's so comical about this whole situation is the claim that the O's half expect their team salary to shoot ahead from the 2013 total of $82 million, perhaps even making it to $100 million. If you believe that, the Orioles have a bridge connecting New Jersey and Brooklyn, N.Y., they'd like to sell you.
It was near the end of last season, when the O's were finishing off a campaign during which they played five games worse than .500 after the All-Star Game, that Duquette said, "We have a pretty solid pitching staff and a good core group of players."
Hey, one out of two ain't bad! And there's still a chance of the club finding another solid starter and reliever, and for Duquette to unearth a gem who doesn't cost much. Back to studying, Duquette.