. . . but Clark opts for Rangers and $30 million pact O's go 1-for-2 with free agents

November 23, 1993|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

With Will Clark out of the picture, the Orioles have retrained their sights on first baseman Rafael Palmeiro while maintaining interest in Eddie Murray.

After two intense days of negotiations, the Orioles dropped out of the bidding for Clark, who agreed to a $30 million, five-year deal with the Texas Rangers last night.

Orioles general manager Roland Hemond confirmed yesterday that he had been in contact with Jim Bronner, Palmeiro's agent.

Bronner was in New York yesterday, presumably talking to the Yankees, and reportedly was scheduled to come to Baltimore today. But Hemond said that no meeting had yet been scheduled.

"I talked to Jim, but I don't know when, or where, we will meet," Hemond said shortly after announcing that the Orioles had signed pitcher Sid Fernandez. "It probably won't be until the end of the week."

Last night Palmeiro wasn't in the mood to discuss his next move, but he did blast the Rangers.

"They never gave me the option of getting back with them," Palmeiro told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "It was unprofessional. But that's the way [Rangers president Tom] Schieffer operates.

"We agreed that I would go out and see what's out there and then come back to them. They knew the whole time it was going to take less for me to stay here because this is my home. But they never gave me another chance.

"If I had the kind of year Will had the last two years, I could understand this. Fourteen home runs and 73 RBI? That's nothing, and they gave him $30 million for that. I hit 37 homers, drove in 105 runs, scored 124 runs. What do they give me? They offer me [$3.5] million less. What is that telling me?"

Schieffer told the Star-Telegram the $3.5 million difference was in deferred money, an option that would have been available to Palmeiro. Schieffer also said Palmeiro's demands rose to six years and close to $40 million during a conversation Friday with Bronner.

"They told me the price of playing poker had gone up," Schieffer said.

When asked yesterday if he would have signed for the same deal Clark received, Palmeiro said, "I think so, maybe. It would have been hard to turn down."

Palmeiro acknowledged the Orioles and Yankees were among his most likely possibilities, but wouldn't speculate on where he might sign.

Meanwhile, speculation increased about the possibility of Murray returning to the Orioles, for whom he played from 1977 to 1988. "They are one of five or six teams with whom we've had discussions," said Ron Shapiro, the Baltimore-based attorney who represents Murray.

It is known that new owner Peter Angelos has expressed a desire to bring back Murray, who will turn 38 in February. "He is one of the names that have been discussed," a club source said last night.

Depending on the status of designated hitter Harold Baines, currently a free agent, Murray's return may not hinge on whether the Orioles can sign Palmeiro.

Hemond said yesterday that he was hopeful Baines would return. "With everything that's been going on, I haven't talked to Jack Sands [who represents Baines] for a couple of days. But I'm hopeful that Harold will be back with us again."

While there was some disappointment about not being able to sign Clark, the Orioles are content that they made a sincere effort. "The talks got real serious and we made a substantial offer," said Hemond.

A club source said that the Orioles' offer to Clark was for $27.5 million for five years. But they were unwilling to match the $30 million offered by the Rangers, who offered Palmeiro $26.5 million.

"We made a very, very substantial offer [to Clark]," Angelos said. "I think we did the best we could do in light of all the circumstances. We gave it the full, full try. We did not hold back at all.

"There's a certain limit to every effort you make. As far as I'm concerned we made the maximum effort," said Angelos.

Whether that means they will now be willing to make the same offer, or better, to Palmeiro remains to be seen. Although club officials would not reveal their priorities, Clark was generally believed to be their top choice.

While contemplating the possibility of signing Palmeiro, the Orioles also are continuing to pursue trade possibilities. Speculation of late has centered on San Diego Padres right-hander Andy Benes, but California Angels left-hander Mark Langston might be a more viable possibility.

California GM Whitey Herzog has given Langston's agent, Arn Tellum, permission to contact teams in an effort to negotiate a contract extension as a prelude to a trade. A club source acknowledged yesterday that the Orioles are one of the teams that have been contacted.

The Yankees also have received permission to negotiate with Langston, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Hemond said he has been in contact with San Diego general manager Randy Smith, but didn't sound optimistic about acquiring Benes. "I can't say what they're thinking," said Hemond, "but they don't seem anxious to trade him by any means."

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