Astros' Davis is a tempting Oriole option

December 19, 1990|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Evening Sun Staff

While waiting to hear officially that catcher Mickey Tettleton will accept salary arbitration, the Orioles could be involved in a bigger game hunt that could produce a blockbuster trade.

Persistent reports out of Houston insist the Astros are pursuing trade involving first baseman Glenn Davis -- and that they resumed talks with the Orioles yesterday. There is every indication that Houston will trade Davis in an effort to rebuild the club with young players.

The Astros have been devastated by the loss of free agents thiwinter, owner John McMullen is trying to sell the club, and Davis, 29, can become a free agent after the 1991 season. A deal of

such magnitude would require a significant gamble by the Orioles, who would have to surrender up to four young players for someone who may only be around for one year. Among the names reportedly being mentioned by the Astros are first baseman Randy Milligan, righthanders Pete Harnisch and Curt Schilling, outfielder Steve Finley, and top lefthanded prospect Arthur Rhodes.

Orioles general manager Roland Hemond left on a holidavacation Monday, but assistant GM and personnel director Doug Melvin confirmed discussions have taken place. Asked if the Orioles could provide a proper fit for the Astros, Melvin would only say: "We have talked to them."

Davis hit 22 home runs and drove in 64 runs in only 327 at-batlast season. The year before he hit 34 home runs, despite playing half his games in the Astrodome, considered the toughest home run park in baseball. Reportedly, Davis has said he wants $25 million for five years to stay in Houston -- a figure some interpret as a tactic to scare off the Astros. Still, it is not unrealistic to assume Davis will command the kind of contract lTC the Orioles are facing with Cal Ripken after next season -- something like $12 million for three years.

For the Orioles to acquire the slugger they desperately needthey would have to sacrifice a healthy chunk of their youthful foundation. It could be disastrous if Davis was available only for one season, though Melvin did note that "you wouldn't expect to give up as much if he wasn't signed." It is also possible that teams with the most interest might gamble that Davis will be available on the free-agent market next year.

Although a trade still be classified as a long shot, the process oelimination has moved the Orioles near the top of Houston's shopping list.

Atlanta seemed a natural fit for Davis, who is from Florida wherhe was adopted and raised by the parents of ex-Oriole Storm Davis. But the Braves dropped out of contention after signing first baseman Sid Bream, a free agent from the Pirates. San Diego was interested before acquiring Fred McGriff, and the Red Sox were in the picture until they signed Jack Clark.

That apparently leaves the Cubs, who would be forced to parwith Mark Grace, and the Orioles as the apparent front-runners. The temptation to get a player of such magnitude could tempt the Orioles to take the risk.

Though they have said they don't want to trade Milligan, who a29 is the same age as Davis, the Orioles almost certainly would have to include a first baseman, either Milligan or 23-year-old David Segui, whose line drive stroke would be more suited to the Astrodome.

The Orioles are finding that Finley is one of their mosmarketable players (the Angels are interested in him as a replacement for Devon White). Rhodes, who is only 20 years old, could be ready to pitch in the big leagues next year. The Astros are in dire need of a closer, and envision Schilling (or possibly Mark Williamson) as a potential stopper. They are also looking for a second baseman, and the Orioles could try to convince them that Juan Bell can play there, though his natural position is shortstop.

It remains to be seen if the Orioles could satisfy the Astros, theDavis, but the possibility has obviously intrigued them. But before they pull the trigger on this kind of deal, they'll have to decide how much ammunition it's worth.

In the meantime, there was nothing new to report on Tettleton'situation. The switch-hitting catcher has until midnight to decide whether to accept the Orioles' offer of salary arbitration.

Tony Attanasio, Tettleton's agent, was unavailable for commenyesterday, sending word through a spokesperson that a decision wouldn't be made until today. Unless things have changed drastically, however, Tettleton is expected to accept arbitration and retain his rights to free agency next year.

*

The Orioles announced the signing of a six-year minor-leagufree agent yesterday, righthanded pitcher Todd Frohwirth, who pitched parts of four seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Frohwirth, 27, is a reliever who was 9-7 with a league-leading 2saves and 67 appearances and a 3.07 earned run average for Scranton-Wilkes Barre in the International League last year. In 72 major-league appearances from 1987 to '90, all with the Phillies, Frohwirth was 3-3 with a 3.95 ERA. He was signed to a Rochester contract.

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