If you spend time consuming the kind of television or movies that have characters who are prone to being taken hostage - hey, no judgement here - you probably already know that the particularly aware types of people work out signals ahead of time with their friends, loved ones, or spy coworkers ahead of time. A specific word to indicate a statement is being made under duress, or, if forced to rigidly follow a certain script, perhaps a certain series of blinks of the eyes, distinct enough to communicate a message without alerting those fictional captors.
I mention all of this right now on this Orioles blog because as Dan Duquette spoke to O's media in Nashville on Sunday night, in advance of this week's baseball Winter Meetings, Duquette said the kind of thing that, in one of those shows or movies, would probably qualify as a secret distress signal:
Duquette said #orioles could take longer look at Matusz as starter in spring training if cant find LH starter— Roch Kubatko (@masnRoch) December 7, 2015
That is a cry for help to anyone who is listening. Who it's directed towards and what they're supposed to do about it is another question - Duquette being the GM, he's the very person who can take action to make sure that scenario does not come to be a reality.
All joking aside, the quote should not be read as an unprompted Duquette putting forth Brian Matusz as a potential answer to the starting rotation, even in desperate straits. Maybe it was, but most of the time these quotes come from someone answering a specific question. If one of the O's reporters asked him about Matusz as a starter in spring training, having probably asked him the same question the past three Winter Meetings and spring trainings, the Dan Duquette quote bot would generate a similar response to the above and none of it would mean anything.
The Orioles could use left-handers of all kinds at the moment. There aren't any left-handed hitters who are ticketed for guaranteed roster spots, and there aren't any left-handed rotation options as things stand right now, which is how you get Matusz coming up in that context. You don't really want the Orioles to go with five right-handed starting pitchers just because that seems weird, like you're just asking to be abused by the David Oritzes of the world in the first six innings of every game.
As for the lineup, well, we know how much manager Buck Showalter likes to stagger his lefties and righties when he can. Here are the lefty- or switch-hitting players currently on the 40-man roster: Matt Wieters, Ryan Flaherty, Rey Navarro, Henry Urrutia, Jimmy Paredes. Woof.
How are they going to fix that problem? Chris Davis is certainly a left-handed bat. So is free agent outfielder Alex Gordon. Being an outfielder with a strong defensive reputation, Gordon would check off another of the Orioles needs. Duquette told MASN's Steve Melewski that even having picked up Mark Trumbo and L.J. Hoes, he still wants to add another outfielder. Well, duh. That's something.
On the other hand, the Orioles went looking for a left-handed outfielder last offseason and it ended up being Travis Snider. They got a left-handed outfielder at the trade deadline and that turned out to be Gerardo Parra. So this doesn't mean anything exciting. If they don't go for $25 million/year for Davis, are they going to go $20 million/year for Gordon? That's a hard one to imagine.
They could end up picking up a player like Will Venable off of the fringes, who is a left-handed hitter who's been an MLB outfielder for eight years. The O's were linked last week by ESPN's Jerry Crasnick to Venable - at least at the "expressed interest" level. Venable is 33 and has batted a combined .233/.303/.336. As fellow Camden Chatter Bill Duck is fond of saying, if Venable is the answer, you don't want to know the question.
Yet the fringe almost seems to be where the O's are destined to look for at least one of these major holes on the team. If they spend big on a left-handed bat, whether he's an outfielder or not, then it's really hard to imagine them also getting any kind of legitimate answer in the starting rotation, lefty or otherwise. No more than J.A. Happ and his career 4.13 ERA just got $36 million over three years. Parents, raise your babies to be left-handed.
On the fringe for their left-handed starting options are a host of long shots. T.J. McFarland is often bandied about as a player who might start, but his performance at the big league level hasn't made that seem likely. Recent 40-man addition Chris Lee surely needs some Triple-A seasoning, if not more, before being MLB ready. The best choice of the bunch might be minor league journeyman Chris Jones on the 40-man as well. He's 27 and coming off a season where he posted a 2.94 ERA for Norfolk's rotation.
If the O's end up being in a position where any one of these guys is getting a shot in spring training, heck, why not give Matusz another look as a starter too?
Kick dirt vodka. Purple monkeys. No, don't turn off the camera, I'll say it over again, I'll be good, I swear --