TORONTO – A tipping point in the Dan Duquette saga may be approaching, and while some deft manoeuvring is still required, leverage may be shifting to the Toronto Blue Jays in their pursuit of the Baltimore Orioles executive.
To be sure, Major League Baseball is running out of patience with the ongoing mess and the damaging perception that’s been left to linger. One industry source tells Sportsnet baseball officials are nudging the Orioles to either strike a deal for Duquette or shut down the matter entirely.
Time is ticking down on this.
Realistically, despite the firm lines in the sand drawn by Orioles managing partner Peter G. Angelos, retaining Duquette when he wants to leave would be counterproductive, and he only needs to look to the Blue Jays’ experience with John Farrell for proof.
After the 2011 season, the Blue Jays rebuffed an approach from the Red Sox for their then manager by demanding Clay Buchholz as compensation, winning the day and setting the stage for Bobby Valentine to gong show Boston’s 2012 season.
But bigger picture, retaining Farrell – who wanted to return to Boston – was a mistake, and his desire to leave eroded the organization’s faith in him and led to mistrust of him among players in the clubhouse during a difficult campaign.
Shortly after the season ended, the sides settled on Mike Aviles as compensation for Farrell, with 40-man filler David Carpenter sent to the Red Sox to complete the transaction – probably the place where they should have landed a year earlier.
Can the Orioles really believe they’ll avoid similar toxicity if they retain Duquette, who is under contract through the 2018 season but wants the Blue Jays job as president and CEO the way Farrell wanted to manage the Red Sox?
Forcing someone to stay in a relationship when their heart is elsewhere is no recipe for success. Neither is retaining someone strictly on principle (or spite), especially when not everyone is on the same page.
One path to a deal may be by helping the Orioles save some face by offering a player or prospect marginally better than the token bodies established as precedent for such transactions.
A player like Dioner Navarro, as Sportsnet colleague Jeff Blair suggested earlier this week, makes some sense. Totally ludicrous would be another story making the rounds – a package of Jeff Hoffman and Max Pentecost, both first-round draft picks in 2014 that cost the team nearly $6 million total in signing bonuses.
Edward Rogers, the deputy chairman of team owner Rogers Communications Inc., is handling the negotiations, based on comments made by Angelos to the Baltimore Sun, and given that he’s listed as the club’s control person with Major League Baseball, it makes sense that he’s driving the bus.
Now is the time to give the Orioles an opening, but not break the bank, because they have far more to lose here than the Blue Jays.
While it would be ideal to have a president and CEO in place to make a mid-season call, if needed, on GM Alex Anthopoulos (who is in the final year of his deal), the team still has Paul Beeston (the franchise icon currently trapped in no man’s land) in place if all else fails, with an appealing job that many in the industry will still covet.
That’s a much better situation than the Orioles will be in if everything falls apart for all the reasons above, and should provide enough incentive to get a deal done.