Ron Kittle filed for free agency yesterday, becoming the third Baltimore Orioles player to file this week. But on the day he filed, it was not clear how free a free agent Kittle really is.
The Orioles hold an option on Kittle's contract for the 1991 season. According to his contract, the team has until Dec. 20 to decide whether to invite him to return. If he comes back, Kittle's salary will be $600,000. A buyout of Kittle's contract would cost the Orioles $100,000.
That's one interpretation. Another is that Kittle, 32, can become a free agent as early as Nov. 5, the deadline for filing for free agency.
The Major League Players Association and the Player Relations Committee, a group that represents baseball management, apparently have discussed Kittle's status this week.
Neither Kittle nor his agent, Jim Broner, could be reached for comment last night.
Doug Melvin, Orioles player personnel director, said he was aware of discussions concerning Kittle's free-agent status, but did not know how or whether they have been resolved.
For the Orioles, the more pressing issue figures to be whether they are interested in picking up Kittle's option -- next month or ever. Kittle played sparingly this year after he was obtained from the Chicago White Sox for outfielder Phil Bradley. Used mostly as a designated hitter and pinch hitter, he batted .164 and hit only two home runs in 61 at-bats for the Orioles. For the White Sox, he hit .245 with 16 homers and 43 RBI in 277 at-bats.
Melvin said the Orioles management has talked about Kittle's situation, but needs to talk more. "We have to decide if we are going to pick the option up," Melvin said. "We've discussed it by phone. But with Larry [Lucchino, Orioles president] out of town and Roland [Hemond, general manager] out of town, we need to talk more."
Other Orioles to file for free agency this week were pitcher Joe Price and catcher Mickey Tettleton.