MIAMI BEACH, Fla. -- The last full day of the annual winter meetings was drawing to a close, and Baltimore Orioles general manager Roland Hemond was visibly disappointed.
He came. He talked. He apparently struck out.
"The meetings create excitement. They're very enjoyable when your making trades," Hemond said. "You're always upset when you don't get things accomplished."
Hemond also appeared to be angry, but he would say only that he was frustrated that weeks of trade talks with the Montreal Expos had run aground -- and not from lack of serious intent on the part of the Orioles.
The Expos and Los Angeles Dodgers were the two teams most interested in acquiring Orioles first baseman Randy Milligan, but both moved in other directions at baseball's annual trading convention.
The Dodgers acquired first baseman Todd Benzinger from the Kansas City Royals yesterday, so they no longer need help at that position. The Expos made their second deal for pitching help in the last two weeks, following up a November trade for Ken Hill by acquiring John Wetteland and Bill Risley from the Cincinnati Reds. Afterward, they indicated that they were no longer in hot pursuit of a first baseman.
"We've got internal options, and there are several first basemen available if we decide to go outside," said Expos GM Dan Duquette.
That's apparently what he told Hemond just minutes before yesterday's press briefing. The Orioles were under the impression that the Expos were adding pitching depth to facilitate the trade that had been discussed, only to find that they had lost interest in Milligan along the way.
"They indicated that if they got an additional pitcher . . . they got Hill and Wetteland . . . it's sort of confusing," said Hemond, obviously weary from days of intense trade talks. "They have exhausted our patience."
They also have exhausted their immediate possibilities. Hemond confirmed that the trade talks involving Milligan were focused almost entirely on the Dodgers and Expos, so it may take some time for substantive talks to develop with any new clubs.
Hemond confirmed that the club is getting low-balled by other teams because there is the perception that Milligan will not have a place in the Orioles' lineup next year. That, he says, is not necessarily true.
The re-signing of Glenn Davis may have displaced Milligan at first base, but there still is a significant role for him on the club.
"Sure, by all means," Hemond said. "You have a designated hitter rule, too. You also have bench strength, pinch hitters, role players. He's a productive player who can hit."
"We had reason to feel that [we could make a deal] because of the many discussions that we had," he said. "We thought we had a chance to make a multi-player deal."
Instead, the Orioles have to turn their attention to the free-agent market, where they are attempting to acquire at least one veteran starting pitcher.
lTC The club's candidate list has not changed in the past few days. Kirk McCaskill still is scheduled to visit Baltimore on Monday. Rick Sutcliffe also remains an intriguing possibility.
The Orioles need help in other areas, too, though they do not appear to have major interest in any front-line position players.