ROSEMONT, Ill. -- Roland Hemond has completed 22 trades in three years as Orioles general manager, but few qualified as blockbusters. His piecemeal approach helped rebuild the club in remarkably quick fashion. The question now is whether it's the right course for a team aiming for contention.
Are Matt Young and Franklin Stubbs the answers? Is Carlos Quintana? Manager Frank Robinson said toward the end of the season that the Orioles needed impact players, a veteran starting pitcher who could be penciled in for 200 innings, a power hitter who could be expected to deliver 75 RBIs.
To that end, the club made offers to two free agents -- Young, a lefthander, and Stubbs, a first baseman/outfielder. Team officials will meet with representatives of both players today, but here's the scary thought: What happens if they acquire neither?
Judging by the early returns at the winter meetings, not much.
Oh, the Orioles appear to have a shot at landing Quintana, a first baseman/outfielder from Boston, for righthander Pete Harnisch. But Quintana has played only one full major-league season. As the Orioles discovered in 1990, that level of experience hardly qualifies as a track record.
Once again, Hemond is finding his trade options limited because the Orioles' young talent, while promising, is largely unproven. Thus, players like Mike Greenwell and Danny Tartabull still appear out of reach.
But a Carlos Quintana . . . well, we've seen such trades before. Sometimes they yield a Randy Milligan; other times, a Wade Rowdon.
That's not to demean Quintana, a righthanded hitter who batted .287 with seven homers and 67 RBIs last season. But despite numerous talks between the clubs the last two weeks, there's no guarantee the trade will even be completed, given the flighty nature of Boston GM Lou Gorman.
Besides, even if the Orioles acquire Quintana, the price almost certainly will be Harnisch, the best pitcher they are willing to trade. After that, then what? For a team unable to complete a major deal, the answer should be a major free-agent signing. But, of course, that appears out of the question.
The Orioles likely would improve with Stubbs and/or Young, and this point they appear to be in legitimate contention for both players. But other free agents remain far more intriguing -- most notably George Bell, whose agent, Alan Hendricks, has made no secret of his client's desire to play in Baltimore.
That might be a ruse, but Bell is a former MVP, and he is believed to have received only one offer -- from Toronto, the team that wants him to return as a DH. Surely, the price would be high, but it's possible a single pre-emptive strike would put Bell in an Orioles uniform.
Now that's thinking big.
The rest? Piecemeal stuff.
It's not that the Orioles aren't trying. Hemond met with four clubs yesterday -- Los Angeles, Kansas City, the Chicago White Sox and California. But the talks, he said, were "not extra hot by any means." That's partly because it's early in the process, and partly because the Orioles have little to offer.
Hemond described the Orioles as the "aggressor" in almost every case, but a source said Kansas City and Cincinnati weren't even interested in formal discussions. The Royals relented, not that it mattered. General manager Herk Robinson said the clubs were "not compatible."
For a while, the Orioles were optimistic about acquiring California outfielder Dante Bichette, but reportedly didn't want to give up Steve Finley. The issue now might be moot; the Angels traded for outfielder Junior Felix in a six-player deal with Toronto last night, and are believed to be interested in free-agent outfielder Dave Henderson.
Meanwhile, ESPN reported the Orioles were trying to acquire outfielder Kal Daniels from the Dodgers for Harnisch and Finley. Nice rumor, but it's not true; sources on both sides issued strong denials, claiming the talks did not involve those players and never reached the substantive stage.
That left the White Sox, a team with a surplus of lefthanded relievers (Ken Patterson, Wayne Edwards, Steve Rosenberg). Here, too, it appears the discussions were not especially serious. The White Sox are seeking a reserve infielder with punch (Tim Hulett?), but surely will shop elsewhere.
So much for Day One.
* The major-league draft. The Orioles have the 10th pick, but their 40-man roster is full, so they'll be forced to release a player if they make a selection for the fourth straight year. As in the past, the $50,000 price is appealing, and team officials did not rule out the possibility.
* Stubbs and Young. The Orioles are the only club known to have made Stubbs an offer, yet his agent, Jim Turner, says he has received three, all for three years. Atlanta's interest appears to be diminishing, Montreal's and Milwaukee's increasing.
The competition for Young, meanwhile, is far more intense -- though Detroit, one of seven clubs interested, might be dropping out; Young is merely one of four pitchers to whom they've made offers. Boston, Cincinnati and the New York Yankees also are among his suitors.
* Quintana. Hemond had not scheduled a meeting with Gorman as of late yesterday afternoon, but the two continue to talk informally. Sources said the Orioles have been offered either Quintana or Phil Plantier for Harnisch. Plantier bats left, and he hit 33 homers at Triple A last season, but has only 15 major-league at-bats.
Quintana makes more sense, but it's all relative.
Mike Greenwell, or someone like him, makes the most sense of all.