While Orioles go shopping Blue Jays charge up lineup Insulted by Cubs, Dawson looks to rekindle interest here

December 08, 1992|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The Chicago Cubs broke off negotiations with free agent Andre Dawson last night, and his agent expressed hope that the Orioles will follow up on their late-summer attempt to add the veteran outfielder to their lineup.

Dawson reportedly was offered a two-year contract worth $7 million by the Cubs, but agent Dick Moss turned it down and blasted the club for the way it handled the contract dispute.

"He [Dawson] thinks it has been pretty shabby," Moss said, "and as far as I'm concerned, it's sad, it's tragic that he will not play again for the Chicago Cubs. They have done everything they can to insult him."

The negotiations between Moss and Cubs general manager Larry Himes continued well into last night, but the Cubs had set a midnight deadline for getting Dawson under contract. The club could have kept negotiations going by offering him salary arbitration, but Himes had made it clear earlier that no such offer would be forth coming.

Dawson, who averaged 29 home runs and 98 RBI in six seasons with the Cubs, was seeking a two-year deal worth $11 million, but questions about his age (38) and physical condition (he just underwent another knee operation) made them hesitant to meet his price.

"I think it came to a point where we had a difference in value," said Himes, who has had the same kind of difference of opinion with Cy Young Award winner Greg Maddux, but did offer arbitration to him last night.

The Orioles made a couple of inquiries about Dawson's availability during their surprising run at the American League East title last year, but eventually acquired Craig Lefferts to bolster the starting rotation instead. They have spoken to Moss about Dawson, but apparently have not made an offer.

"They tried to make a trade for him because they thought they had a chance to win the pennant and they thought he would be perfect for them," Moss said. "I think they are still interested."

They probably would not be interested in the numbers that have gone back and forth between Moss and the Cubs. The two-year deal that Dawson turned down would make him the third-highest-paid player on the Orioles roster. For the annual salary he was seeking, the club could make a play for superstar outfielder Ruben Sierra, though they would have to guarantee three more years.

But the price structure could change once the Cubs are out of the picture. Moss asked for the moon partly because of the contribution that Dawson has made in Chicago. Dawson agreed to sign a blank contract with the Cubs during the free-agent freeze-out of 1986 and 1987 and went on to win 1987 National League MVP honors with a performance that included 49 home runs and 137 RBI.

"As far as money is concerned with the Orioles, I don't know," Moss said, "because we haven't talked about money. I would like touch base with them in the next two days."

The Orioles figure to have the time. Their lukewarm pursuit of free-agent second baseman Lou Whitaker ended yesterday, when Whitaker agreed to re-sign with the Detroit Tigers for three years at a guaranteed $10 million. The Atlanta Braves made a stronger bid than the Orioles, but the Tigers were the only club that would guarantee the third year of the contract.

"They [the Orioles] never came up with anything," Whitaker said. "They just said, 'We're interested in signing you.' They have a good team and a good young pitching staff. It wouldn't have been a bad choice."

Whitaker apparently would have liked the opportunity to give Baltimore serious consideration, but said he didn't feel the Orioles' interest was sincere. Orioles officials suspected the same about him, predicting early on that he would re-sign with the Tigers.

"Cal [Ripken] probably has more to say than anyone else about that team," Whitaker said. "He may not have wanted anybody taking his brother's place. One brother sticking up for another brother -- I like that."

It was a frivolous claim, of course. There was no indication that JTC Cal Ripken had any involvement at all. The Orioles were not so interested in finding a new second baseman as they were in acquiring some left-handed power to solidify the offense.

Oddly enough, the emphasis yesterday changed to right-handed pow

er, when the Orioles selected power-hitting outfielder Sherman Obando from the Triple-A Columbus Clippers roster in the Rule V draft of unprotected minor-league players.

Obando, 22, is a five-year minor-leaguer who hit 17 home runs and had 51 RBI in 381 at-bats for the New York Yankees' Double-A Albany-Colonie club. He will get a chance to compete with Luis Mercedes and Chito Martinez for playing time in right field this spring.

Under Rule V, teams must pay $50,000 for each player drafted. Selected players must remain on the 25-man major-league roster for the entire season or be offered back to their original clubs for half of the draft price.

The Orioles, who came to the winter meetings looking for some offensive punch, hope that the right-handed-hitting Obando will give them a balance of power in the outfield.

"We've been scouting him for years," Orioles scouting director Gary Nickels said. "We scouted him at Albany this year, and we liked his bat. He had a good year in a tough-hitting league. If we didn't think he had a chance to make our ballclub, obviously we wouldn't have drafted him."

The Orioles did not lose any players in the major-league portion of the draft, in which 16 players were selected. The first choice in the draft was made by the Los Angeles Dodgers, who picked Dara Clark from the Kansas City Royals' Triple-A Omaha club.

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