ROSEMONT, Ill. -- Leave it to the Orioles. As other clubs spent millions, they left the baseball winter meetings with more money than when they came.
Here's the balance sheet:
Credits: $12,000 for losing catcher Jeff Gay in the minor-league draft, $100,000 for trading outfielder Dave Gallagher and an undetermined sum for releasing pitcher "Texas" Mike Smith.
Debits: None, really -- unless you count the infinitesimal sums the club will pay its only two acquisitions, minor-league pitchers David Martinez and Mike Hook.
Now, that's minding the bottom line.
In fairness, the Orioles are "very close" to signing outfielder Dwight Evans, according to his agent, Jack Sands. Evans, 39, has a bad back, but right now he's the only free agent with whom the Orioles are talking.
Yesterday, they lost first baseman/outfielder Franklin Stubbs, who signed a three-year, $6 million contract with Milwaukee. The day before, they lost lefthander Matt Young, who signed a three-year, $6.4 million contract with Boston.
It was fitting that both players spurned offers from the Orioles to sign with other AL East teams. Five clubs in baseball's most maligned division have spent a combined $57.25 million on free agents this offseason.
Fourth-place Cleveland and the fifth-place Orioles have abstained -- but at least the Indians acquired two major-league pitchers for outfielder Cory Snyder.
To think, fans in Baltimore thought last winter was boring.
Bring back Randy Bass!
Detroit signed righthander Bill Gullickson, outfielder Rob Deer and infielder Tony Bernazard. Milwaukee re-signed lefthander Teddy Higuera and added righthander Edwin Nunez. Boston signed Young to replace Mike Boddicker in its rotation, and is said to be interested in 27-game winner Bob Welch and possibly new-look free agent Jack Clark.
Still, for all the lucrative contracts, the only AL East club that has been significantly altered at this point is Toronto, which yesterday acquired outfielder Joe Carter and second baseman Roberto Alomar for shortstop Tony Fernandez and first baseman Fred McGriff.
The Blue Jays earlier acquired outfielder Devon White and righthander Willie Fraser from California and signed free-agent lefthander Ken Dayley, infielder Rance Mulliniks and designated hitter Pat Tabler. The Orioles, meanwhile, might not even pursue free-agent power hitters like Tom Brunansky, Candy Maldonado and Jeffrey Leonard.
Their sole focus now is Evans, but Sands said the deal is on hold until club physician Charles Silberstein speaks with his Boston colleague, Arthur Pappas. The conversation is expected to take place today.
Sands spoke five times with Orioles officials between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. yesterday, and Evans spoke again with manager Frank Robinson. All signs point to Evans signing a one-year contract for a base salary in the $1 million range, with extra income possible through incentives.
Evans has a bone spur in his lower back, but the Orioles have not asked him to come to Baltimore for a physical. He earlier underwent a battery of tests at the request of the Red Sox and Chicago White Sox, and Sands said he is fit to play.
"It's to the point now where it's going to the doctors," Sands said. "A large part of it is what role he's going to play. And a large part of that depends on what the doctors say."
Evans is the major leagues' active home-run leader with 379, and he likely would provide leadership while playing the outfield and serving as a designated hitter. But with lingering questions about his condition, he does not represent the run-producing outfielder the Orioles are seeking.
The club also wants to add a lefthanded starting pitcher and hard-throwing lefthanded reliever, but Robinson said the situation is "not life-and-death. It's not going to be the end of the world if we don't do something. We've got talent right now. We'd just be a better ballclub if we made some moves."
To that end, general manager Roland Hemond remained at the meetings today to continue trade talks with the few clubs still registered at the Hyatt-O'Hare. He met a second time with San Diego after the Padres announced their blockbuster, and also spoke with Pittsburgh and the New York Mets.
Nothing is close.
The Orioles reportedly were considering a trade in which they would lose third baseman Craig Worthington and acquire Cubs outfielder Dwight Smith. The deal was contingent on the Cubs signing George Bell, but farm director Doug Melvin said the two clubs never even met.
Worthington's name, however, again surfaced in talks with the Padres, a source said. The Padres are willing to part with lefthander Derek Lilliquist, and the source said talks were ongoing. The Orioles clearly are proceeding as if Leo Gomez has made Worthington expendable.