SARASOTA, Fla. -- When Adam Jones spoke at FanFest Jan. 28 about the Orioles' chances in 2017, he said it was important the team improve its outfield defense.
As pitchers and catchers reported to Sarasota, Fla., Feb. 13, executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said the team needs better outfield defense, but his star center fielder hasn't talked to him about his concern.
"I noticed [former major league player and current ESPN analyst] Doug Glanville recommended Adam could play a little bit deeper … to improve the Orioles outfield defense," Duquette said.
"Doug Glanville is a former center fielder who takes a really close look at the metrics of players, right? And he studies them as an analyst for ESPN … how the Oriole outfield defense could start to improve as soon as Adam moved back 10 feet."
Manager Buck Showalter said he isn't sure Jones needs to change his positioning.
"Adam's very approachable about that stuff. But I also can show you a bunch of balls that he catches in front of him that no other center fielder does," Showalter said. "The analytics is that balls over your head are doubles and triples, and balls in front of you are singles. I got the math of it. But there's an add and subtract to that, too.
"… Adam's approachable. He's also one of the better center fielders in the game. He does a lot of things for us that other people can't do. Also, the arm comes into play a lot more when he's a little shallower. There's a lot of ways to look at it. We'll sit down and talk. I want to get his input, his feelings about it and the respect I have for him, and we'll see if there's a way we can improve at every place. But he's not saying anything that we haven't talked about in detail since I've been here for five years. It's something we weren't quite as good at it last year as we've been in the past. And I'm not talking about Adam, just our coverage in general. A lot of that had to do just with ability as opposed to positioning."
As training camps around baseball open, one longtime Oriole, catcher Matt Wieters, remains a free agent, and there has been chatter he could still return.
It's not something Duquette seemed to endorse. The Orioles signed Welington Castillo Dec. 16 to be the starting catcher. Castillo will be the starting catcher for the Dominican Republic's entry in the World Baseball Classic.
"We made a choice when we went to sign Castillo," Duquette said. "We liked him. We liked his experience, and we liked his capability. We liked the way he had checked all the boxes on the key catching components over the past couple of years, so we made a value choice to go sign him, and we'll see how that works out for us."
Wieters has been a longtime Showalter favorite, and for spring training, Castillo has inherited his corner locker.
"I haven't gotten that nostalgic about it, yet. I'm trying to have respect for Welington," Showalter said. "They have a lot of guys to pick to be there to catch for the Dominican, and they picked him, OK? That tells you a little bit about his stature, and I have respect for what he brings, too. He's a humble kid. He's a pleaser. He's ... [got] big shoes to fill, but I think he can do it. But I want to be fair to him. He's the guy who's wearing our uniform this year. We'll embrace him. … Everybody loved Matt, but they will also find things to like about Welington."
Duquette said he's not yet completed his construction of the club.
"You never know which players yet are going to end up contributing to your team. We're still looking around," Duquette said. "This is a tough division, and you look at what some of the other clubs have done in the offseason to beef up their clubs, and we've got to hang in there and slug it out and get our team ready to start this season.
"… I do like the returning pieces of our team. I like the way our rotation pitched the last six weeks of the season, particularly the way those young kids pitched. Also, [left-hander Wade] Miley came up with a more consistent breaking ball, which helped him over his last several starts. The bullpen remains a strength, the infield is top notch, both offensively and defensively, and we're going to have to find some solutions through better defensive outfield play. We still have power at pretty much every position around the diamond. We have a good field manager, so we have a lot of strengths to our ballclub, but we have a lot of work to do. [
Baseball Prospectus'] PECOTA picked us last again. I think this is the sixth year they've picked us last, so I know we have more work to do. We've got more work to do. There's no question about that."
Duquette has an aim for the 2017 Orioles.
"I think when you take a look at what the club's done over the last couple years, there seems to be a pretty consistent theme that yeah, we'd like to make the playoffs again, but we'd like to do better than that," Duquette said. "There's a sense of fulfillment that would be resolved when the team would progress in the playoffs to a championship."