Though it appears the Baltimore Orioles were close to a deal to land Atlanta Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone, talks hit a snag Wednesday that could delay his hiring or temporarily suspend negotiations.
The Braves, according to one baseball source, are asking the Orioles for a prospect in return for Mazzone, whose contract with Atlanta expires Nov. 15. The Orioles could try to sign Mazzone after that date, but it could allow the New York Yankees -- who dropped efforts to sign Mazzone on Wednesday -- back into contention.
"The window for the Yankees to speak with representatives of Leo Mazzone closed today at 5 p.m.," Yankees spokesman Jason Zillo said. "Both sides agreed to end their discussions without resolution."
Meantime, the Orioles will announce the hiring of Jim Duquette to a three-year deal for a high-level front office position on Thursday, according to one team source. Duquette will assist Executive Vice President Mike Flanagan, though he will also have decision-making powers. Duquette, who was the New York Mets' general manager in 2004 but was reassigned this past season after the team hired Omar Minaya, met with the Orioles on Wednesday to finalize the deal.
"It was a very positive meeting," Orioles legal counsel H. Russell Smouse said. "He's a guy that's made a very favorable impression on us."
Representatives for Mazzone -- who is close friends with Manager Sam Perlozzo -- and the Orioles are expected to talk again Thursday, but the deal hinges on Atlanta. The Orioles appear unwilling to part with any prospects for Mazzone, but delaying his hiring could cost them dearly if the Yankees get heavily involved again. It's likely Mazzone will command a salary somewhere in the $350,000-to-$450,000 range, which would make him among the highest-paid coaches in the game.
"I really can't comment on it," Flanagan said of the negotiations.