As we discussed in our most recent previous article, the Toronto Blue Jays have been and are interested in hiring Orioles GM Dan Duquette to be their president/CEO. Duquette is under contract with the Orioles through the 2018 season, so the Blue Jays would likely have to compensate the Orioles for letting Duquette out of his contract. Orioles fans - at least some of those who commented on our earlier article - are hoping that the compensation will be one of the Blue Jays' top prospects. In this article, I will look at the other times a team compensated another team for a non-player, and then speculate on whom the Orioles might reasonably expect to get as compensation.
There haven't been many instances of a team hiring a general manager under contract to another team without the original team's consent. The most notorious instance occurred in 2011, when Theo Epstein left the Boston Red Sox to join the Chicago Cubs. The Red Sox asked for either the Cubs' best starting pitcher, Matt Garza, their best player, Starlin Castro, or their most advanced prospect, Brett Jackson, as compensation. The Cubs refused; while we don't know what their counteroffer was we know that it wasn't what the Red Sox hoped. The teams were at an impasse; Commissioner Bud Selig was forced to resolve the issue.
The Red Sox didn't get what they hoped for. The compensation was Chris Carpenter and Aaron Kurcz; the Red Sox gave the Cubs Jair Bogaerts, a non-prospect whom the Cubs released in June without him having played in a game. At the time of his transfer, Carpenter was the Cubs #13 prospect according to Baseball America, a 26-year-old pitcher who was transitioning to the bullpen. Baseball America stated that he "could eventually develop into a set-up man". Kurcz was a 21-year-old pitcher who had once been the Cubs #25 prospect according to Baseball America, but wasn't then among their top thirty prospects. Kurcz had struck out a lot of batters as a 20-year-old in the Florida State League, but had problems with control. Neither Carpenter nor Kurcz was a top prospect.
The Red Sox may have overreached in their compensation request because they believed there was no precedent for compensating a team when its general manager was hired from another team. If they did so believe, they forgot that after the 1994 season the Cubs, who seem to like hiring star general managers from other teams, hired Twins General Manager Andy MacPhail as their new GM. And the Cubs compensated the Twins with Hector Trinidad. Trinidad was the Cubs #10 prospect after the 1994 season (in a weak farm system); a starting pitcher with great control but not much of a strikeout pitch.
And those are the only instances of a team compensating another team for a front-office signing. When the Cubs signed Theo Epstein, they also signed Jed Hoyer from the Padres and it was thought that the Cubs would compensate the Padres, but the matter kept being put off and eventually the Padres agreed not to press the Cubs for compensation. There have also been five instances in which a team signed a manager who was under contract to another team and compensated the original team with players.
After the 1967 season, the Mets hired Gil Hodges from the Senators. The Mets gave the Senators Bill Denehy and $100,000. Denehy was a 21-year-old pitcher who had been rushed to the big leagues (at least by today's standards) and had pitched poorly (73 ERA+) in 54 innings. Washington's ownership was always short of cash, and the $100,000 was probably more valued than the player.
After the 1976 season, the Pirates hired Chuck Tanner from the A's. The Pirates gave the A's Manny Sanguillen and $100,000. Sanguillen had been considered the second- or third-best catcher in the National League during the early 1970's, but by 1976 was in his early 30's and on the decline. Because the Pirates had some young catchers they were excited about, they were willing to surrender Sanguillen, And A's owner Charles Finley was short of cash, and welcomed the $100,000.
After the 2001 season, the Rays hired Lou Piniella from the Mariners. The Rays gave the Mariners Randy Winn; the Mariners gave the Rays Antonio Perez in addition to Piniella. Winn was named to the 2001 All-Star Game team and was coming off a 120 OPS+ season - but Perez was the Mariners' #3 prospect after both 2000 and 2001.
After the 2011 season, the Marlins hired Ozzie Guillen from the White Sox. The Marlins gave the White Sox Ozzie Martinez and Jhan Marinez; the White Sox gave the Marlins Ricardo Ambres in addition to Guillen. Ambres was released before playing a game in the Marlins' organization. Martinez and Marinez were both top ten prospects for the Marlins before 2011, but both had lost some luster after the season.
And, after the 2013 season, the Red Sox hired John Farrell from the Blue Jays. The Red Sox gave the Blue Jays Mike Aviles; the Blue Jays gave the Red Sox David Carpenter in addition to Farrell. Aviles was a 32-year-old up-and-down utility infielder; Carpenter was a 25-year-old right-handed relief specialist whom the Red Sox waived within a month.
In general, then, we see that the compensation for non-players is typically a marginal player or borderline prospect; better compensation packages such as Randy Winn from Tampa to Seattle will require more compensation than just the non-player. Although the Blue Jays AAA team in Buffalo plays in the International League with Norfolk, I don't claim to be an expert in the Blue Jays system. Nevertheless, there are two players in the Blue Jays' system who seem to me to be similar in value to the compensation examples shown above.
One is Kevin Pillar. Pillar is an outfielder who just turned 26. He is a career .322 hitter in the minor leagues, but doesn't have much power and doesn't draw walks. He spent part of 2013 and 2014 with the Jays; he hit .206/.250/.333 in 110 2013 plate appearances (OPS+ 53) and .267/.295/.397 in 122 2014 plate appearances (OPS+ 97). He's played mostly left field and center field in the minor leagues, and so projects to be a utility outfielder.
The other is John Stilson. Stilson is a right-handed relief pitcher who turned 24 last July. As a collegian, Stilson was an ace starting pitcher and a projected first-round draft pick, but a shoulder injury dropped him to the third round and relegated him to the bullpen. Stilson has continued to be injury-prone and was limited to 34 AAA innings in 2014. He projects to be a set-up man if he can stay healthy.
Duquette's perceived value, that he is under contract for four more seasons, and that the Blue Jays are in the same division as the Orioles may distinguish this situation from those discussed above. Still, based on the precedents above, it doesn't seem likely to me that the Orioles will get a potential impact player as compensation for Duquette. Whether those precedents adequately reflect Duquette's value to the Orioles is another question altogether.