In a bold move, the Baltimore Orioles today acquired slugging first baseman Glenn Davis from the Houston Astros in exchange for pitchers Pete Harnisch and Curt Schilling and outfielder Steve Finley.
The trade was the culmination of intense negotiations that begalast month during the winter meetings and were completed late last night. The deal was made without any assurance that the Orioles can retain Davis beyond the 1991 season, when his current contract expires. At that point, he would be eligible for free agency.
"We had to make the move without having everything cleareaway," club president Larry Lucchino said at a hastily called noon news conference today. "We are focusing on now what we can do to improve the team for this year -- and we will begin immediately to negotiate a contract with Davis' representative [Robert Fraley]."
In announcing the trade, general manager Roland Hemond citethe role of the Orioles' minor league department. "We are trading from our strength [pitching], and we were able to make the trade because it is an ongoing program," Hemond said. "When you give up young players you have to deliberate, but we realize to get a player of the caliber of Glenn Davis you have to give up young players. We were able to do it because we have some more young players waiting in the wings."
The acquisition of Davis, who will turn 30 on March 28, gives thOrioles three first basemen, with Randy Milligan and David Segui already on the roster. Davis, whose 144 major-league home runs over the past five years ranks sixth best, is a righthanded hitter, as is Milligan. Segui hits from both sides of the plate.
Manager Frank Robinson said he was not concerned about thcrowd at first base and wouldn't speculate on the possibility of one of the three being used in the outfield. He did confirm that the addition of Davis could expand the outfield playing time of Dwight Evans, whom the Orioles signed as a free agent last month.
"Right now, I'm just happy about having Davis in our lineup," saiRobinson. "We'll let spring training take care of those other things."
Davis, who was drafted by the Orioles out of high school in 1979has played 17 games in the outfield in the big leagues. "We have not discussed with him the possibility of playing the outfield," said Robinson.
Last year Davis hit 22 home runs for the Astros, despite missintwo months of the season because of a rib cage injury. He played a career-low 93 games. He is one of six major leaguers who has hit 20 or more home runs in the last six years.
Playing in the Astrodome, which is rated the toughest park ibaseball for home run hitters, Davis averaged one homer for every 14.9 at-bats, a ratio that would have been second best in the National League had he played enough games to qualify. On the road Davis hit 18 home runs and drove in 42 runs in 43 games.
Finley was the key player in the trade for the Astros, who plan tmake him their regular centerfielder. A lefthanded hitter, Finley hit .256 and stole 22 bases in 142 games for the Orioles last year.
Harnisch was 11-11 with a 4.34 earned run average, and Schillinwas 1-2 with three saves and a 2.54 ERA in 35 games after being recalled from Rochester. The Astros regard him as a possible closer in their bullpen.
Although not surprised by the trade, Davis seemed surprised by the timing. "I'm excited," he said. "I'm glad to be part of an organization that wants me to be with them.
"I didn't know things had gotten serious, but the way things wergoing in Houston I was getting the feeling they were concerned about me. I'm excited to be going to a club that really wants me.
"I don't know much about the American League, but understand it [Memorial Stadium] is a good hitter's park and that easier to hit home runs in the American League."
Houston, ridding itself of high-priced veterans, was unwilling to sign Davis to a multiyear contract. Davis earned $1,985,000 last season as a salary arbitration winner.
The first baseman has been seeking a contract for four or five years at an average annual value in excess of $4 million.
"You always have mixed feelings when you have to say goodbye to someone that's been an integral part of your ball club for a 10-year period," Astros general manager Bill Wood said.
John McMullen is attempting to sell the team and trying to keep the 1991 payroll as low as is possible. Harnisch made $120,000 last season, while Schilling made $103,000 and Finley $125,000.
Glenn Davis' statistics
* Age: 29.
* Birthplace: Jacksonville, Fla.
* Home: Columbus, Ga.
* Bats: Right * Throws: Right
* Height: 6-3 * Weight: 200
Year Avg. HR RBI
1984 .213 2 8
1985 .271 20 64
1986 .265 31 101
1987 .251 27 93
1988 .271 30 99
1989 .269 34 89
1990 .251 22 64
Totals .262 166 518
* All years are with Houston Astros.