O's stir free-agent, trade waters Bonilla, Palmeiro, Clark names in pool

November 11, 1993|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

They haven't completed their front-office realignment , but that hasn't kept the Orioles from aggressively pursuing off-season moves to strengthen the club.

Those possibilities seem to be many -- and major.

The Orioles have been in contact more than once with Jim Bronner, the agent who represents Texas Rangers free agent Rafael Palmeiro. San Francisco Giants free agent Will Clark, the other premier first baseman available, is expected to visit Baltimore next week.

And New York Mets general manager Joe McIlvaine has confirmed that outfielder Bobby Bonilla has been discussed in trade talks with the Orioles. In addition, Mets left-hander Sid Fernandez is believed to be another free-agent target for the Orioles.

Yesterday, assistant general managers Frank Robinson and Doug Melvin were scheduled to meet with new owner Peter Angelos. But those tentative meetings remained on hold while the Orioles' front-office personnel spent most of the day in discussions of their own.

The emergence of Bonilla as a possible acquisition is further evidence that Angelos intends for the Orioles to be major players during the off-season. The Mets, realizing they aren't in a position to contend with Bonilla, are willing to trade the switch-hitting outfielder as part of a rebuilding program.

Angelos has said the team would be active in the free-agent field, and it appears the Orioles are ready to make two significant moves in that market plus a major trade in an effort to improve a team that won 85 games last season.

It is believed the organization is split on a preference between Palmeiro or Clark, but one of the two could well turn up at Camden Yards next year.

Clark's agent is Jeff Moorad, who also represents Gregg Olson and Jeffrey Hammonds. He said Clark has an interest in the Orioles. "We're anxious to make a visit," Moorad said before departing for Texas, where he and Clark are scheduled to meet with Rangers officials today.

Meanwhile, the Rangers' interest in Clark is an indication they think Palmeiro will split. Palmeiro, who hit 37 home runs last year, was said to be miffed that the Rangers declined to negotiate until after the World Series -- and then sent a $25 million, five-year offer to Bronner by mail.

Palmeiro and the Rangers reportedly have not talked since that offer was rejected. "There really isn't a whole lot I can say," Palmeiro said last night from his home in Texas. "I know that Jim [Bronner] has talked to them [Orioles] a couple of times and I'm very much interested."

Asked if he expected to visit with the Orioles in Baltimore, Palmeiro said he would like to do that, but that it wasn't necessary.

"I think that [a visit] will happen," he said, "but there's nothing they can show me that I haven't seen -- I know the city and it's a great ballpark. I'll just have to wait and see what Jim has to say."

Bronner was in Puerto Rico yesterday and unavailable for comment.

If the Orioles don't get Clark or Palmeiro, a free-agent candidate at first base could be Andres Galarraga, who also is represented by Bronner. Galarraga, who won the National League batting championship with Colorado, made $850,000 in 1993 and is thought to be seeking a $5 million-a-year deal.

When they signed Bonilla to a five-year, $29 million contract two years ago, the Mets thought they were on track for a return to the World Series. But they find themselves in a make-over mode and are trying to replenish a once-fertile organization that has gone dry.

McIlvaine is looking to plug holes at first base, shortstop, third base and on the pitching staff -- preferably with young players. Whether the Orioles can satisfy his demands without purging their own system remains to be seen.

Manny Alexander, the young shortstop who ranks as Cal Ripken's heir apparent, left-hander Arthur Rhodes, first basemen David Segui and Paul Carey, and third baseman Leo Gomez are some of the names believed to have been discussed.

Roland Hemond, still the point man in trade talks, wouldn't elaborate on his discussions with the Mets.

"I can't deny we've talked," he said, "but it's too early to predict anything."

Minor-leaguers honored

Three players in the lower classification of the Orioles' system have been honored as the organization's minor-league performers of the year.

Outfielder Alex Ochoa, who played for Single-A Frederick, was named Player of the Year. Maryland native Garrett Stephenson and Armando Benitez, both of whom were with Single-A Albany (Ga.), shared Pitcher of the Year honors.

Ochoa, 21, hit .276 with 13 home runs, 34 stolen bases and 90 RBIs for the Keys. He was selected as the second-best prospect in the Carolina League by Baseball America -- behind teammate Curtis Goodwin, who hit .281 and had 61 stolen bases.

Stephenson, 21, was 16-7 with a 2.84 ERA for Albany. He pitched the South Atlantic League's only no-hitter, beating Macon, 1-0, on June 9.

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