With Matthews in the fold, the Orioles might wind up non-tendering Singleton's contract, which would cut him loose and leave them with nothing to show for Harris.
"Suppose Singleton hits .330 next year," Thrift said. "Everybody is quick to judge. ... Everybody wants immediate success, and that's one of the cardinal sins of this profession. They expect somebody to wave a magic wand over something and turn a team that has been going one way for a long time and immediately resurrect it and walk on water."
Two walls in Thrift's office are covered with magnets featuring the names of every major-league player, arranged by team, position and current injury status. He keeps close tabs on the Orioles' farm system, as well.
The minor-league managers still report to him, and he oversees all the hiring and firing of the staffs, along with player movement from level to level. Minor-league director Don Buford and scouting director Tony DeMacio report directly to Thrift.
"In my position, I have to depend on a lot of people," Thrift said. "When you talk about this job, most people start and end with the major-league team, which is really a fraction of the total picture."
This is Thrift's eighth season with the Orioles, and he spent the first four running the farm system. In his fifth year, he had a limited role under then-general manager Frank Wren, but now he is still heavily involved in the club's minor-league development. On Friday, for example, Thrift was in Sarasota, Fla., for the start of the instructional league.
Thrift considers this a critical component of his job. While the struggles of Rochester, Bowie and Frederick didn't sit well with him, he points to successes at the lower levels and doles out credit, saying, "I think in scouting, this was probably the best year we've had."
But problems must be addressed. Rochester, which has endured five consecutive losing seasons along with the Orioles, severed ties with the club last week, ending a 41-year relationship and sending the franchise in search of a new Triple-A affiliate.
Aside from second baseman Jerry Hairston, the Orioles have not had an everyday position player come through their system since Cal Ripken in 1982.
How much responsibility does Thrift take for the minor-league woes?
"We're all responsible," he said. "I can't say I'm over here, and everything's over there. Mr. Angelos is who I report to. I have the responsibility of the scouting department, the minor-league department and the major-league team, all three things. That's the way it really is."
The right leader?
Thrift's detractors pin the franchise's struggles to flaws in his leadership style. No one questions his work ethic, only his methods.
"Communication is practically nil throughout the whole baseball operations department," one Orioles official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "He likes to operate where he's the one in control and everyone else is in the dark."
Another Orioles official said that if Angelos decides not to retain Thrift, "champagne bottles will be popping everywhere."
Thrift defended his leadership style saying, "I make my own final decisions, but I've never made one yet without consulting with at least a half-dozen people. That's a fact. Not just here, but anywhere I've been. Sometimes, if I miss somebody, they feel they've been left out, but that's not intentional."
Palmer said the Orioles shouldn't make a change with Thrift "just to make a change."
"If they're going to go out, then they need to get somebody who can communicate or can maybe bring a fresh look," Palmer said. "It's easy to say we're going to go back to the Oriole Way, or we're going to all be on the same page, but apparently that's not the case, and they just need to move forward.
"This team overachieved. They played their hearts out, and that's all you can ask. Now do we want to try to get better players? Yes. Do we want to have a general manager that other general managers want to talk to and respect and so forth? You have to look and see if that's the case now. If it's not, that's another reason to make a change."