The funniest story of the Orioles offseason came about a month ago when Dan Duquette told Jose Bautista’s agent that the Orioles wouldn’t sign him because fans don’t like him. In an interview on MLB Network Radio on Sunday, Duquette claimed that those comments “kind of got blown out of proportion.”
Duquette is a smart guy who knows a crowd-pleasing line. That’s apparent in his frequent rejoinder to critics of the state of the Orioles farm system: “The same people who rate us last are the people who pick us last in the division every year.” People eat that stuff up, including me, even though I also know the farm system isn’t very good.
We’re a month beyond the winter meetings, where Duquette said what he said about Bautista. Along comes a radio host joking about whether Duquette will open up FanFest in a couple of weeks by presenting Bautista to Orioles fans. You can listen to the audio yourself here.
After the patented Duquette laugh that typically signals to me that he doesn’t want to answer this question honestly, he told the program:
It’s a bit disingenuous of Duquette to come in and claim things got “blown out of proportion” when Duquette himself was confirming the original comment to anyone who would ask him about them during the winter meetings.
Here was Duquette to The Baltimore Sun’s Eduardo Encina:
“That’s true,” Duquette told The Baltimore Sun on Wednesday morning. “That’s true. The agent called and I said, ‘Really? Jose is a villain in Baltimore and I’m not going to go tell our fans that we’re courting Jose Bautista for the Orioles because they’re not going to be happy.'” ...
Asked later in the day if his stance would change if Bautista's price tag dropped later in the offseason, Duquette smiled and said, "I’ll have to check with the fans."
There’s more in the link. Duquette had plenty of chances to downplay the initial reports and he took those chances to instead amplify them by saying even more. Nothing was blown out of proportion. Duquette seemed to gleefully embrace the comments.
Not that anyone should have ever believed that Duquette wouldn’t sign a player solely because Orioles fans don’t like him. That would be a terrible way to go about trying to build a team.
There are plenty of other good reasons not to sign Bautista, possibly including the fact that the move wouldn’t be popular in the Orioles clubhouse, as MASN’s Roch Kubatko hinted in a Christmas morning blog post. You can also add in a lost draft pick, his decline in 2016, his price tag, and, now that the O’s have traded for Seth Smith, not even seeming to need a right fielder.
All of that still means it would be surprising if the Orioles signed Bautista after all. But maybe not that surprising. Duquette has shown a willingness to sign the qualifying offer-attached players who are still languishing on the market as spring training approaches and arrives. Which is why his tune now is, “We’ll have to see if there’s a match.”
It remains hilarious that Duquette said all of this about Bautista, but it never seemed like it could possibly be true and now he has admitted as much.