On the eve of Major League Baseball’s 113th annual winter meetings the most interesting rumor swirling around the Hyatt hotel lobby in San Diego wasn’t even about a baseball player. It was about Baltimore Orioles’ general manager Dan Duquette.
It was reported Sunday by ESPN’s Buster Olney that the Toronto Blue Jays are actively seeking a replacement for their longtime team president and chief executive officer Paul Beeston.
Other names such as Ken Williams, the executive vice president of the Chicago White Sox, and Minnesota Twins’ general manager Terry Ryan are said to be in the mix but the name atop the Blue Jays’ list of candidates to replace Beeston is Duquette’s.
While the reasons for Beeston’s departure from Toronto is still unclear, sources say that the team was not happy with some of Beeston’s actions surrounding finding a replacement for MLB commision Bug Selig.
Duquette, who was recently the recipient of the MLB Executive of the Year Award for 2014 from both the Sporting News and Baseball America, is under contract with the Orioles until 2018. Technically, his being under contract means that the Blue Jays would have to have permission from Baltimore to even begin talking to Duquette but Orioles’ owner Peter Angelos had a definitive answer when he addressed the rumors Sunday,
We signed him,” Angelos said. “He has a commitment for four more years, and he has done quite a job for us. We are very pleased with his performance, and we expect him to satisfy his contract. We not only want him to, but we expect him to. … We don’t want him to go away, and we don’t expect him to go away. And he’s given no indication he wants to go away.”
Still, that doesn’t mean that Angelos will stop Duquette from getting what would be a very big promotion. It just means that the Orioles would expect quite a bit in compensation for losing Duquette.
This practice is rare but not unprecedented. Both the Blue Jays and the Boston Red Sox have recieved player compensation in this situation when then Toronto manager John Farrell took over as the skipper for the Red Sox and when Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein left the club to take over at the helm of the Chicago Cubs.
What would make this transaction, should it ever happen, so unprecedented is that the two teams are division rivals in the American League East. The Orioles won the division in 2014 taking it out from under the Blue Jays who had held the top position for the majority of the season.
When Duquette took over as GM of the Orioles the team had had 14 consecutive losing seasons. In the past three years since Duquette’s arrival the Orioles have had three consecutive winning seasons, icluding winning 96 wins in 2014 which is the team’s most since 1997.
Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun writes,
“The rumor comes after a week in which the Orioles lost Nick Markakis, Nelson Cruz and Andrew Miller to other clubs in free agency. And as the Orioles attempt to regroup, uncertainly at the top of the baseball operations department can’t help their pursuit of free agents and trade targets.”
Encina is right any percieved instability surrounding top Orioles’ executive could prove costly to the club as they try to negotiate with other teams and free agent players this week during the winter meetings.
Duquette later dismissed the rumors during an interview for MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM saying,
“Well, I’m with the Orioles, OK?” Duquette said. “And I’m here to represent the Orioles at the meeting. And I really don’t have anything to add other than that.”
“I do have a contract, and I’ve always honored my contract, so I appreciate the interest, and I don’t have anything else to add. … The good thing is that baseball is interesting and there’s always a lot of opportunities, and if you do a good job, the opportunities will follow you.”
His answer doesn’t seem quite as definitive as Angelos however, and like Duquette said, “baseball is interesting.”
Beeston is reportedly to stay with the Blue Jays through the 2015 season but changes in baseball have been known to move fast so whether or not the Blue Jays may end up needing a replacement sooner remains to be seen as do Duquette’s true feelings about the would-be promotion to Blue Jays’ CEO.