Orioles, McDonald meet halfway on deal

January 28, 1994|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer Staff writer Peter Schmuck contributed to this article.

Ben McDonald and the Orioles split the difference yesterday, leaving the club with two potential arbitration hearings and negotiations with free agent Gregg Olson still to be resolved.

There were indications yesterday that Olson's talks were moving closer to a resolution. Six teams are believed to be involved in negotiations for the right-handed reliever, who became a free agent when the Orioles did not tender him a contract by the Dec. 20 deadline.

Olson's agent, Jeff Moorad, said he talked to Orioles general manager Roland Hemond and assistants Frank Robinson and Doug Melvin yesterday. "I faxed a proposal to them for their consideration," said Moorad, "and Roland indicated he would be talking with [owner] Peter Angelos and be back in touch with me in the next day or so.

"We're moving into the 11th hour, and I've alerted all teams that have made offers that we'd like to make a deal by the first part of next week," Moorad said last night from his office in California. "We have continued to talk to them, and Gregg's first choice is to return to the Orioles."

Hemond was unavailable for comment last night, but Melvin acknowledged that Moorad had been in contact with the Orioles yesterday. "I think Roland left it that he would be in contact with Jeff [today]," said Melvin.

Meanwhile, the Orioles concluded their negotiations with McDonald yesterday by more than doubling his salary for next year. The 6-foot-7 right-hander agreed to a one-year contract for $2.675 million, plus award and performance bonuses. He earned $1.25 million in 1993.

McDonald had filed for arbitration, but when the two sides exchanged numbers, a quick settlement was predictable. The Orioles had offered $2.5 million, and the pitcher asked for $2.85 million.

"The figures were in an area where it appeared an agreement could be reached," said Hemond. "It was just a matter of working it out."

Which the Orioles are trying to do with Olson.

In addition to the Orioles, the California Angels, Atlanta Braves, Toronto Blue Jays, Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees are reported to have made offers for Olson, who earned $2.3 million last year.

Most of the offers are for one year, calling for varying degrees of guaranteed money, although the Angels have made a contingent multi-year proposal.

Bill Bavasi, who succeeded Whitey Herzog as Angels general manager, said yesterday that he felt a decision on Olson was close.

"The sooner the better," he said. "Sometime this weekend, we'll either get together with Jeff and see where we are, or we'll jump off.

However, Moorad is scheduled to be in Atlanta for the Super Bowl this weekend. "I got the impression Jeff wants to get something done by next week," said Melvin. "I don't know how much will get done in the next couple of days, but he did give Roland a number where he can be reached."

Olson isn't the only decision still looming for the Orioles.

McDonald was one of three Orioles who filed for arbitration, joining outfielder Mike Devereaux and right-handed reliever Alan Mills. Designated hitter Harold Baines, pitcher Jamie Moyer, catcher Chris Hoiles, outfielder Brady Anderson and infielders Mark McLemore and Leo Gomez reached an agreement before the filing deadline.

Devereaux and Mills could have their salaries decided by an arbitrator. Hemond wouldn't speculate on the chances of avoiding the arbitration process, but said negotiations are continuing with both.

The numbers for Devereaux represent the biggest financial risk, but the figures for Mills are higher in terms of percentage.

Devereaux has been offered a $100,000 raise, to $3.125 million, and is asking for $3.950 million. Mills, who made $350,000 last year, has been offered $500,000 and is asking for $850,000.

"We're still in the early stages," said Hemond. "We'll keep talking and see what happens down the line."

Despite a 26-27 record, McDonald has been the workhorse of the Orioles' rotation for the past two years. His 3.39 ERA (12th best in the American League) was more indicative of the year he had than the 13-14 record he posted last season.

"It was good to see his improvement this past season," said Hemond. "We think Ben is on the verge of making himself one of the game's real good pitchers."

After being hampered by a series of nagging injuries during his first two years, McDonald has not missed a start in the past two. His 69 starts during that span are the most by an Orioles pitcher in back-to-back seasons since Scott McGregor started 71 times in 1982-83.

McDonald, 26, led the Orioles with seven complete games last year, allowing two runs or less each time.

"The first thing that comes to mind about Ben is how much he's grown," manager Johnny Oates said. "There was so much pressure, expectation and anticipation from the time he came out of LSU that I'm sure it wasn't easy for him.

"The improvement he's made in the last 12 months has been enormous. I'm looking forward to watching him get better in 1994."

McDonald, who began his preseason training here earlier in the month, is hunting in Alabama.

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