After Orioles owner Peter Angelos made his stance perfectly clear on what he expects to be a long future for Dan Duquette in Baltimore, the executive vice president of baseball operations didn’t exactly squash the rumors and reports linking him to the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday.
Speaking to reporters gathered in San Diego for the MLB winter meetings, Duquette reaffirmed what he said Sunday about being under contract with the Orioles, but his words did little to negate reports of him being interested in becoming the new president and chief executive officer of the Toronto Blue Jays. The 56-year-old is under contract with Baltimore through the 2018 season, but the Blue Jays position would represent the kind of promotion any general manager around baseball would be intrigued to at least explore.
“I’m here with the Orioles, and my focus is with the Orioles and helping the Orioles put together the strongest team that they can have in 2015,” Duquette told reporters Monday afternoon. “We have a lot of the pieces here. We have a good farm system, we have established people in the big leagues and we have a good pitching staff, so to me it’s really a matter of adding some pieces and we can contend again.”
According to the Toronto Sun, Paul Beeston is expected to remain in the position through the 2015 season, so it’s a mystery why the Blue Jays would be reaching out to potential replacements at this early stage. It’s believed that Toronto hasn’t requested permission to talk to Duquette about the position, and Angelos made it clear in interviews with local media Sunday that the Orioles won’t be willing to “relinquish” their rights.
It isn’t difficult to understand either side’s position, regardless of whether there are real legs to Duquette being a top candidate for the Blue Jays job. In any career field, you can understand a person being interested in the possibility of a lucrative promotion — even if they’re happy with their current job. By all accounts, Duquette has been happy in Baltimore and appreciative of the long-term commitment, but the opportunity to be in charge of all facets of an entire organization — not just baseball operations — has to be intriguing.
On the flip side, the Orioles can’t appreciate the timing of the news on the eve of the winter meetings, a critical juncture in the offseason when they’re trying to make signings or trades to improve your club. And it was the Orioles who hired Duquette after he spent nearly a decade away from the majors and then Angelos offered him a six-year commitment after only one year on the job.
It may be considered industry protocol to allow an executive to interview for a promotion, but how far does that go when you’re already deep into the offseason and that promotion is potentially coming with a division rival?
Even if the talk of the last couple days doesn’t lead anywhere, it’s fair to wonder if the trust between Duquette and Angelos will be harmed moving forward.
Duquette deserves plenty of credit for the work he’s done in his three years with the Orioles, but will his heart be in finishing the job of building a championship club if the organization ultimately denies him permission to at least explore the kind of promotion that doesn’t appear to be available with the current ownership structure in Baltimore?
And by all accounts, Angelos has put his trust in Duquette to run the baseball side of the organization without any significant whispers of the owner meddling. The decision to let outfielder Nick Markakis — one of Angelos’ favorites — leave via free agency appeared to be a prime example of Duquette’s autonomy, but would his flirtation with the Blue Jays prompt the owner to rethink that trust and that long-term commitment he made prior to the 2013 season?
With so many needs to address on the field between now and Opening Day, the Orioles hardly needed their infrastructure to come into question at the start of one of the more important weeks of the winter.
You can only hope there isn’t long-term fallout, regardless of the outcome.