Orioles find deep freeze on free-agent talk It's wait and see at winter meetings

December 07, 1992|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Orioles general manager Roland Hemond arrived at the winter meetings yesterday and found just what he expected.

Free-agent gridlock.

"Even when you're being aggressive, you can't be," Hemond said, "because other clubs are not responding to trade talk."

Nobody is ready to talk trade, because everyone is waiting to see which free agents are offered arbitration by today's deadline and which players are not tendered contracts on Dec. 20.

So what do you do when all everybody wants to do is talk about free agents? What else? Talk about free agents. There apparently are some veteran players who might interest the Orioles if they do not require draft-choice compensation, and today is the day that clubs must offer arbitration to ranking free agents or lose their right to a June draft choice.

The Orioles have been pursuing second baseman Lou Whitaker, but he is believed to be close to signing a multiyear deal to remain with the Detroit Tigers. Hemond also said the Orioles had been in contact with the agent for outfielder Andre Dawson, whose status will become clearer today.

Dawson apparently hopes to settle his contract dispute with the Chicago Cubs, who have made a series of offers and will make a final push to get him under contract today. But Cubs GM Larry Himes has made it clear that the Cubs will not offer arbitration if he cannot reach an agreement with agent Dick Moss by the deadline.

"Our time frame is midnight," Himes said.

"Knowing Dick, he'll go right to the stroke."

If negotiations break down, the Orioles are a logical choice to pick up the pieces. They made two attempts to obtain Dawson for the stretch drive last season and still are looking for a run-producing outfielder.

"That was for down the stretch," Hemond said.

"Now, it's a different story. We have a lot of respect for him [Dawson]. He just underwent knee surgery, so you might want to see how he is. You also want to know whether the player has a sincere interest in playing for your team. I have heard from his representative, and he expressed that Andre could have an interest."

Dawson could do for the Orioles offense what veteran pitcher Rick Sutcliffe did for the young pitching staff, but the club would have to be willing to make him one of the highest-paid players on the club. Dawson earned $3.3 million last year, and the Cubs have offered a one-year contract at $3.5 million with an option for a second year at the same price.

Hemond would not characterize the Orioles' interest, except to heap praise on Dawson, 38, who batted .277 with 22 home runs and 90 RBI last year.

"I have a lot of respect for him," Hemond said. "Everything I've heard about him has been good. He's a real pro."

The Orioles also have heard from the agent for veteran outfielder/designated hitter Harold Baines, but the club apparently wants to see how things shake out during the next two weeks before deciding whether to pursue further discussions.

Hemond isn't ruling anything out. The large number of available free agents could get even larger after the Dec. 20 deadline to tender contracts. The Orioles figure to do some bargain hunting in January, perhaps hoping that a player such as Baines would be willing to sign a one-year, incentive-laden contract.

The Orioles will try to add some depth to their roster during today's Rule V draft of unprotected minor-league players. Their roster is at 39, so they have space for one selection -- probably an outfielder to compete for the platoon right-field job vacated by Joe Orsulak.

Orsulak became a free agent at the end of last season and does not appear likely to return. He apparently is being courted by several teams, including the Tigers and New York Yankees, but must be signed or offered arbitration by today to have any realistic chance of remaining in Baltimore.

Players who are not offered arbitration by midnight tonight cannot re-sign with their teams until May 1. The Orioles are unlikely to agree to arbitration with Orsulak (who made $1.3 million last year), and there has been no indication that they are making any serious attempt to re-sign him. The same arbitration decision is pending on reliever Pat Clements.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.