Milligan trade may be next in Oriole plans

February 19, 1992|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

The spirit of compromise was very much alive yesterday in Chicago, where the Orioles settled their salary disputes with first baseman Randy Milligan and center fielder Mike Devereaux and averted a pair of arbitration hearings.

Milligan agreed to a one-year contract that calls for a base salary of $1.05 million and "very achievable" incentives that could take him up to $1.2 million. More importantly, both sides found a middle ground that should make it easier for the club to trade him to someone in need of a full-time first baseman.

Devereaux signed a one-year contract worth $1 million, not long before an arbitrator was scheduled to hear his case. Agent Ray Anderson and general manager Roland Hemond agreed to bridge a $200,000 salary gap and make the 28-year-old outfielder the club's ninth millionaire. Milligan became No. 10 a few hours later.

"We reached a satisfactory resolution in both cases and we're very happy," Hemond said. "You're always happy to reach a compromise without going through the process."

Milligan's bargaining position was complicated by his uncertain status with the club. He has been on the trading block all winter, and has made it clear he would rather play regularly somewhere else than stay in Baltimore as a reserve. He conceivably could have won $1.4 million in arbitration and ended up damaging his earning potential in the future.

"We had a difficult dilemma," said agent Mike Powers, to whom Milligan referred calls yesterday. "We have a player who is worth what we thought he was worth, but we didn't want to create a situation where he wasn't tradable. We wanted a salary that's fair while keeping Randy in a position to be traded to another team."

Milligan's asking price was not outlandish by baseball standards, but he recognized that it might be high enough to become a potential obstacle to a trade.

"We didn't want to get into a position of biting off our nose to spite our face," Powers said. "I think everybody got what they wanted out of this."

Milligan is coming off another solid offensive performance in 1991. He hit .263 with 16 home runs and 70 RBI after moving back into the starting lineup when Glenn Davis went down with a freak neck injury. The Orioles submitted a $900,000 salary figure, no doubt also hoping to keep the price down and Milligan's value up in anticipation of a spring-training deal.

But Hemond, who entertained offers for Milligan at the winter meetings in December, was not talking trade after Milligan agreed to terms.

"He's part of the ballclub," Hemond said. "You need dependable, productive players. It's great to have Randy on our club. We have better depth at the position than we have ever had before."

Still, it seems likely that Milligan will be traded before the club breaks camp in St. Petersburg, Fla., and returns to Baltimore in early April. He does not figure to play as much as he did in 1991, so he may be more valuable to the club for the player he can bring in trade.

Devereaux had filed for a salary of $1.075 million after a solid 1991 season in which he set career highs in home runs (19) and RBI (59). The Orioles had submitted an $875,000 salary figure, but were willing to more than split the difference to avoid a possibly divisive arbitration showdown.

"It's definitely better to settle it this way," Devereaux said. "It can get ugly in arbitration. You use a hearing as a last resort. I'm very happy that I didn't have to go through it."

The Orioles have settled with all six of their arbitration-eligible players, avoiding a hearing in all but the case of pitcher Bob Milacki. He went to a hearing last week and won after being awarded a $1.18 million salary by arbitrator Anthony Sinicropi. Three other Orioles -- Brady Anderson, Bill Ripken and Sam Horn -- agreed to one-year contracts before arbitration.

Hemond was scheduled to return to Baltimore last night and leave for the club's spring training camp today. The pitchers and catchers report to Twin Lakes Park in Sarasota, Fla., tomorrow and open workouts Friday. Full-squad workouts open a week later, though several position players are expected to arrive early.

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