Orioles relief pitcher Todd Frohwirth decided to pass up his day in court. He agreed to terms on a one-year contract yesterday that will pay him $900,000 plus incentives, averting an arbitration hearing that was scheduled for Friday.
Frohwirth was the last of three arbitration-eligible Orioles to agree to a contract, even though he was dealing in a far lower salary range than teammates Brady Anderson and Mike Devereaux. Anderson signed for $1.855 million soon after filing for arbitration. Devereaux agreed to a one-year deal worth $3.025 million two weeks ago.
Nevertheless, Frohwirth's $1.15 million asking price in arbitration became a point of contention for the Orioles, who contended that their offer of $800,000 was a fair-market price for a middle reliever of Frohwirth's ability and statistics.
"I wouldn't characterize the negotiations as friendly," said agent Adam Katz. "The Orioles filed their number with an eye toward going to trial and winning. We had some philosophical differences."
The compromise that was reached left Frohwirth's base salary closer to the Orioles' offer, but includes incentives that will give him a chance to narrow the gap between that offer and his asking price.
"I think the matter got settled at that figure because the other side came to recognize the strength and fairness of our position," club president Larry Lucchino said. "As you can see, the base salary is well below the midpoint [between the two bids]."
Frohwirth was not complaining. Two years ago, he was a seven-year minor-leaguer with a clouded future. This season, he can earn close to $1 million.
"We tried to come up with a number that other guys on the same level as me were making, and that was enough," Frohwirth said. "I wasn't trying to get more than that. I knew that no matter what happened, I was going to get a lot of money. It's more money than I thought I was ever going to make anyway."
Frohwirth was 4-3 with a 2.46 ERA in 65 games last year, leading the Orioles in appearances and leading the American League in relief innings pitched (106). In 1991, he came to the Orioles as a minor-league free agent and then came up from Rochester to post a 7-3 record and a 1.87 ERA.
His contract was renewed at $265,000 last spring, when Frohwirth was unable to reach a compromise with the club, but Katz said there was no connection between that contract dispute and the difficult negotiations this year.
"I wouldn't say so," he said. "That was the hammer that they had last year, and they weren't the only club to use it. Arbitration gives the player a little more leverage."
The Orioles have a history of settling their contract disputes short of the hearing stage. The only Oriole to go to a hearing in recent years was right-hander Bob Milacki, who was awarded $1.18 million by an arbitrator last year. The club doesn't like the unpredictability built into the process or the negative impact a hearing can have on the psychological makeup of a young player.
"We avoided a corrosive process," Lucchino said. "If that helps him [Frohwirth] come into the season in a positive frame of mind and perform well, then we will be pleased."
This contract doesn't bring an end to the off-season business cycle, however. The Orioles still have a number of contracts to negotiate with their one- to three-year players, including 18-game winner Mike Mussina and catcher Chris Hoiles.
Flanagan a possibility
The Orioles were expected to announce today the list of non-roster players they will invite to spring training, and there still is the possibility that veteran left-hander Mike Flanagan will be on it.
General manager Roland Hemond confirmed that the non-roster invitees would be announced today, but he said the Flanagan situation was still "up in the air."
Flanagan, who was released after the 1992 season, has been working out regularly at Camden Yards this winter in the hope of continuing his pitching career. He said last night that hope still remains, but he is taking nothing for granted.
"There are on-going talks," he said, "but I can't get ahead of myself. I hope something happens, and yes, I'm pleased with what is going on."
The 41-year-old left-hander struggled to an 8.05 ERA in 42 appearances out of the bullpen last year, but most of the earned runs he surrendered came in a handful of those games.
The list of non-roster invitees apparently will include several of the minor-league pitchers who were signed during the off-season as well as last year's first-round draft choice, outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds.
Sanderson signing unlikely
Lucchino confirmed a Washington Post report that the club spoke last week with the agent for free-agent pitcher Scott Sanderson, but it appears unlikely that the veteran right-hander will be donning an Orioles uniform in 1993.
Sanderson, 36, was 12-11 in 33 starts for the New York Yankees last year, but his 4.93 ERA in 1992 might explain why he is one of only two experienced starting pitchers who remain available on the free-agent market. The other is right-hander Walt Terrell, who was 7-10 with a 5.20 ERA.
The Orioles are expected to audition several candidates for the fifth starter role this spring, including minor-leaguers Anthony Telford, Steve Searcy, Jamie Moyer and John O'Donoghue. Sanderson is a 15-year veteran who could add experience to the young staff, but his effectiveness is in question after a season in which he exceeded his career ERA by nearly 1 1/2 runs.
"There were some discussions with Sanderson's agent," Lucchino said, "but there is nothing to report. His representative [Dick Moss] talked to us, but he was talking to some other clubs at the same time."