Ex's and O's: Gonzales may return

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

Of the 35 major-league players who weren't tendered contracts this week, it's probable that none will draw as much interest from the Orioles as two of their former players.

Technically, Gregg Olson falls into that category, because he is a free agent. The other is Rene Gonzales, an ex-Orioles infielder who became a free agent when the California Angels declined to exercise their option on his contract.

Assistant general manager Doug Melvin and Jeff Moorad, the agent who represents the right-hander, reaffirmed yesterday that keeping Olson in Baltimore is a priority. "We're going to keep working at it," Melvin said.

"We've been contacted by five or six teams, but Gregg would like to stay," Moorad said. "Our first option is to get Gregg re-signed with the Orioles."

Melvin also confirmed that the Orioles have discussed the possibility of reacquiring Gonzales. "We've talked about him," said Melvin, who is handling player personnel matters in the absence of vacationing general manager Roland Hemond.

"He [Gonzales] is the kind of guy who could fit in. He can give you protection at all three positions [second base, third base and shortstop]."

Gonzales played that role for the Orioles from 1987 to 1990 before being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for pitcher Rob Blumberg before the 1991 season. A year later, he was granted free agency and was signed to a minor-league contract by the Angels and invited to spring training.

Playing mostly at third base, Gonzales had his best year in 1992, batting .277 with seven home runs and 38 RBIs in 329 at-bats. That earned him a $750,000 contract last year, when he batted .251 with two home runs and 31 RBIs in 335 at-bats.

The Angels had an option for $900,000 for 1994, but decided not to exercise it, and Gonzales became a free agent.

Tim Hulett is the only experienced reserve infielder on the Orioles roster. If second baseman Harold Reynolds is not re-signed, manager Johnny Oates would need another infielder,

and Gonzales would appear to be as qualified as anyone available.

Of the players who weren't offered contracts by Monday's deadline, only a handful, including Olson, figure to draw much interest. Left-hander Greg Hibbard will attract some attention, but his 15-11 record as a starter for the Cubs probably will put him in the $2 million salary bracket, which would seem out of the Orioles' range.

Middle relief left-handers Tony Fossas (Red Sox), Bob MacDonald (Tigers) and Steve Frey (Angels) and right-handers Jeff Brantley (Giants) and former Oriole John Habyan (Royals) are among those who might be considered by the Orioles.

The club also is expected to keep the door open for a possible return by Todd Frohwirth, who, like Olson, was not tendered a contract by Monday night's deadline.

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