A day after the announcement that Nick Markakis would be signing with the Atlanta Braves, Dan Duquette was scheduled to attend an event for the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum right next to Camden Yards. I'm sure if you'd asked him, he would have rather that gone differently, but it didn't. As a result, he got to engage in one of his favorite activities, namely, mingling with the local reporter contingent.
One hallmark of Duquette is that he is not very likely to tell you anything that you don't already know. Sometimes it's revealing to see how he says things, though.
With the way the Orioles let Markakis walk, you have to wonder exactly how bad they wanted to re-sign him in the first place. It was not nearly as much as the passionate segment of Markakis fans among the O's fanbase would have liked. Still, Duquette told reporters they got "fairly close a couple times" to finalizing a new Markakis contract and it never quite happened.
What happened that the deal didn't get done? Duquette cryptically referenced something that came up and "became an issue for us," which MASN's Roch Kubatko links to the 2013 herniated disc that was cited by Ken Rosenthal and others last night. While Duquette didn't elaborate on Thursday night, it seems like this is the reason that the Orioles pulled a fourth guaranteed year off of the table. That decision in turn led to Markakis departing.
The unsentimental Duquette is not going to panic over the loss of Markakis. As he does, he rattled off a bunch of names of internal options who might replace Markakis: Alejandro De Aza, David Lough, Steve Pearce, and even a couple of minor leaguers like Dariel Alvarez and Mike Yastrzemski.
None of those sound like supremely exciting options as a Markakis replacement, but there's probably a platoon to cobble together out of that assortment that can possibly be a superior player to Markakis, especially considering it leaves the O's with some surplus money that can be allocated elsewhere.
Duquette even went so far as to tell reporters that De Aza has been a similar player to Markakis for the past three years. This is one of those things that Duquette says that I doubt he even believes. The value of their contributions, as measured by stats like WAR, has been similar, though the skill set that's allowed them to do do that is not similar at all.
Markakis is only about five months older than De Aza, by the way. It's not a question of getting younger there.
Duquette also described Yastrzemski as having a similar skill set to Markakis. If "similar skill set" means "they are all left-handed outfielders," then yes, you could probably say that.
The thing is that it doesn't really matter what Duquette says about these sorts of things publicly, it matters what kind of informed decisions the team makes. They have a good track record in his tenure, even if Duquette's public speaking usually seems like, as a former Orioles blogger once put it to me, "an alien wearing a Dan Duquette suit."
Later on in the evening, he took a few questions from fans. One fan asked about the lack of a qualifying offer to Markakis; in response, Duquette said that they felt the performance from Cruz warranted making an offer. You can read between the lines there.
It's not all stock phrases with Duquette. He dropped a little tidbit on fans that the Athletics tried to trade for Steve Pearce while he was in DFA limbo. He also broke a little news in that the O's have "a dialogue" going with Delmon Young about possibly bringing him back to the team.
What constitutes a dialogue? Your guess is as good as mine. Hot stove season is full of meaningless phrases, which just so happen to be Duquette's specialty to begin with.
Duquette is clearly not worried. We probably shouldn't be either.