The Orioles are in the midst of an off-season filled with question marks and Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette joined the show to discuss many things including FanFest, the situation with the Toronto Blue Jays, earning Executive Of The Year honor at the end of last season and even the final play call of Super Bowl 49.
Vinny started off congratulating Dan on being awarded Executive of the Year for the work he did with the team before and during the 2014 season. Having been a GM himself, Vinny used the topic of the award to ask Dan about the situation with Toronto and how getting such an award can get the attention and interest of other teams. Dan laughed off the topic and skirted around it, humbly sharing the responsibility of the award with his staff, recruiters, scouts and player development. “I’ve been focused in helping the Orioles get ready for the coming season.” Dan said, “I don’t have anything to say about the other situation. I just don’t have anything to add to that.” Vinny insisted that Toronto would probably be after him again if he has another good season, to which Dan responded “Well, I don’t know about that. It’s nice to be wanted and we’re going to have another good year here this year with the Orioles.” When asked if the Toronto job offer hurt any relationships within the organization with Angelos or Showalter, Dan repsonded, “I’ve been focused on helping the team get ready. That’s a habit that I have. I’ve been working with the people to get our team prepared.” It’s unclear what he meant by “the people” but he didn’t say everything is fine either.
Sensing that Dan wasn’t going to say anything else about Toronto or the CEO position there, the guys moved on to the Orioles and what Dan has been doing to improve the team and fill holes left by Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz.
The Orioles made a trade with the Pirates for outfielder Travis Snider and Rob gets Dan’s thoughts on where he fits with the team. “Snider had a very good second half last year. From the all star game on he hit .260 he got on base around .350 he slugs over .500 and he hit 9 home runs. It looks to me like he has about figured it out and has come into his own. He got an opportunity to play regularly and he delivered for the Pirates.” Dan said, “He’s been in the big leagues for parts of 5 seasons, in fact he came up when he was 20. So, I have a lot of confidence in this guy to help our ball club.
“He’s a left-handed power-hitter. He’s a big, strong kid. He’s also a good outfielder. He plays left very well; He can also play right. He can hit left handed pitching. I don’t see any reason why he can’t make make a real strong contribution to our club this year. He gives us a little better balance to our lineup with another left-handed bat. He’s got pull power which is good for our ballpark. Beyond that, I also like the way he can hit the ball out of the left-center field part of our ballpark. We know from experience that once a left-handed hitter can do that in our ballpark, he’s got a opportunity to have a real good year.
“I like Travis Snider. He’s got a real good work ethic too. His twitter handle is @lunchboxhero45 and I think he fits in with the culture of the city and the culture around our team and the hard working guys we got.”
Dan talks about the young guys and who he is anxious to see this year, heading into training camp.
“I still have high hopes for Jon Schoop that he’s going to be a solid hitter.” Dan enthused, “And if Jon Schoop is a solid hitter, he’s a terrific defender and he’s got the great over the fence power, he can be a real impact player for the O’s and he’s only 22 years old.” The other 22 year old on the roster that can be an impact player is Manny Machado who has been nothing but solid defensively.
If Dan were to identify a guy who’s going to have a breakout year in 2015, he would chose Kevin Gausman; “[Kevin]’s got all that great talent. And if you look at what he did last year, he’s one of our best pitchers.”
One guy that that is in development that has a lot of potential on the horizon, that Rob is equally excited about, is Dariel Alvarez. Dan talks about his strong arm and how he can play center- and right-field. He’s an aggressive and hungry young player that Rob is hoping can be ready following the All-Star break. Dan did note that he is a fast-ball hunter but he has some great tools and just needs some more experience. Dan compares him to José Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays, ironically.
The guys talk about the rest of spring training in Sarasota and what positions are available and what their needs are. Dan points out that they need to fill in the outfield but likes David Lough, De Aza and Snider. He mentions Delmon Young as a replacement for Nelson Cruz. He singles out David Lough saying “I like David Lough. I like what what David Lough did the last 3 months of the season. After he got over the concussion issues he had, he was one of our better players.” Rob tells Dan that David Lough scares him but Dan quickly defends his play early in the year, “You guys are thinking about David Lough when he made his debut. I’m gonna tell you David Lough got a concussion in spring training and he had some issues with that it effected his performance until later in the year. I think we’ve got to give him another shot and take a good look at him.”
Alejandro De Aza is another topic that is confusing Vinny and Rob. De Aza wants $5.65 million and the Orioles offered him $5 million. Dan feels like the Orioles made a strong offer and he’s confused about what his agent’s strategy is. “I don’t know how we’re going to settle it now, short of a trial.”
Chris Davis is looking to have a rebound year and the addition of Scott Coolbaugh should help. His 2013 season was filled with accolades but 2014 was a struggle at best.
Vinny and Rob also ask Dan what his thoughts were on Seattle’s final play in Super Bowl XLIX as well as the Oriole’s hosting the All-Star game. Vinny is sure to point out that Camden Yards is a much better than Toronto’s Rogers Center.