O's, McLemore agree to terms Sabo stops by

December 18, 1993|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

The Orioles resolved one infield position and took a step toward possibly improving another yesterday.

Mark McLemore, penciled in as the regular second baseman, agreed to a one-year contract, and Chris Sabo was in Baltimore long enough to undergo a thorough physical examination, leading to speculation the Orioles will make an offer to the free-agent third baseman.

General manager Roland Hemond, after announcing the McLemore agreement, would confirm only that Sabo was in town yesterday. He wouldn't comment on whether the Orioles would make him an offer.

"We don't have any reports yet," said Hemond. "We've got to get more information."

However, Sabo's agent, Jim Bronner, told sources in Chicago that the Orioles were satisfied with the results of the exam. If that is the case, the Orioles presumably will make an offer to Sabo, who turned down a $2.5 million, one-year bid from his former team, the Cincinnati Reds, two weeks ago.

The New York Mets already have made an offer, The New York Times reported. Mets general manager Joe McIlvaine and Bronner didn't say what the offer was, and said negotiations were in the preliminary stages.

"We don't make offers to someone we don't have a serious interest in signing," Ed Lynch, a special assistant to McIlvaine, told the Times. "But it's not a situation where we'd get into a bidding war with other clubs. If we don't sign him, the sun's coming up the next day."

Sabo also was given an exam by the Mets Thursday. "He checked out sound," McIlvaine said.

The deal with McLemore for $1 million plus incentives came only after negotiations became bitter.

McLemore's agent, Tony Attanasio, made it clear he was upset with the way the Orioles handled the situation. McLemore's comments weren't quite as strong, but he also expressed disappointment with his treatment.

"First of all, to be very sincere about this, the amount of dollars involved was not an issue with me or with Mark," Attanasio said last night from his office in California. "We are not unhappy with the money.

"Am I unhappy about the way it was done? Yes. It came down to the club saying either take this [offer] or we will not tender you. Not once did we ever give the club the offer that we wanted. In that regard, there's a lot of disappointment."

Reached at his Arizona home last night, McLemore said he was dismayed, but could put the incident behind him.

"I'm upset about it. I felt I didn't deserve to be treated this way again," said McLemore, who was not tendered a contract last year and came to spring training with a minor-league agreement. McLemore had a base salary of $300,000 in 1993.

"I can't tell you why they did it. I don't feel that I'm a bad guy, and I think I put up numbers to deserve to be treated better. But I definitely can put it behind me and play as hard as always, but that doesn't mean I feel it is right."

Attanasio credited new owner Peter Angelos with keeping the lines of communication open. "I can tell you that the only thing that kept this together was my conversations with Mr. Angelos," said Attanasio.

"In addition to being an intelligent man, he's a real people person. If it hadn't been for him, this [contract] wouldn't have happened.

"I advised Mark to take the risk [of not being tendered], because I feel he had value on the free-agent market, based on what ddTC know some teams are looking for. But Mark felt he owed it to Baltimore -- to the fans, his teammates and himself -- for the opportunity to come back and help win. He felt it was the right thing for himself and his family."

Attanasio said he was particularly upset by manager Johnny Oates' saying the Orioles and McLemore were "miles apart."

"How can you be miles apart when you've never talked about money?" he said. "We never had a chance to make a cogent argument. It was their way or the highway -- and it won't soon be forgotten."

Advised of the comments by Attanasio and McLemore, Hemond attributed them to the rigors of negotiations. "I'm sorry anybody would feel that way," he said.

"Negotiations are always difficult. It's never an easy process, and people sometimes get upset. Everyone has a job to do. . . . I trust and hope everything will be OK with Mark."

Even if negotiations didn't end pleasantly, Oates said he was delighted with the results. "I'm just glad we were able to get it done," he said.

McLemore, who played a utility role in 1992, spent most of last year in right field and had a career season. He hit .284, drove in 72 runs and had a team-high 21 stolen bases.

Even if the Orioles re-sign Harold Reynolds, the starter at second last season, McLemore is expected to take over there. Hemond did not rule out a return for Reynolds, but that appears to be only a slim possibility."The impression I got was that they don't feel they can fit us both into their budget," Reynolds said from his home in Corvallis, Ore.

Reynolds reportedly was willing to take a $1 million cut from last year's salary of $1.65 million and was close to an agreement, pending the outcome of talks with McLemore.

"If he so desires, we'll still talk," said Hemond, "but I don't want to mislead Harold. There's more competition [at second base] now."

* Sabo wasn't the only player examined by Orioles doctors yesterday. Reliever Gregg Olson also went through another checkup, and the two crossed paths during the course of their examinations.

Olson will be examined again later in the month by Dr. Frank Jobe, the Los Angeles-based orthopedic specialist who saw him last summer. Jeff Moorad, Olson's agent, had several discussions with the Orioles this week, as the two sides try to work out a contract for next year.

All contracts must be offered by Monday, after which players without offers become free agents. Hemond said that the Orioles would make no announcement about players who won't be tendered before then.

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