General manager Roland Hemond confirmed yesterday that the Orioles have talked with Andy Van Slyke's agent, but said the club has made no offer to the Pittsburgh Pirates' free-agent outfielder.
"We've had some conversation with Dick Moss [who represents Van Slyke], but no figures have been discussed," said Hemond.
Moss could not be reached for comment.
Van Slyke, 34, a five-time Gold Glove winner, would be an unrestricted free agent regardless of the ground rules baseball eventually settles on. Because the Pirates did not make him a qualifying offer, Van Slyke can be signed without a team having to give up draft choices as compensation.
Hemond also said the Orioles have talked with representatives of two relief pitchers who are restricted free agents, John Wetteland of Montreal and Mike Stanton of Atlanta. Wetteland, 28, was 4-6 with a 2.83 ERA and 25 saves in 1994. Stanton, 27, was 3-1 with a 3.55 ERA and only three saves this past season.
Van Slyke, a left-handed career .276 hitter, has been mentioned before in connection with the Orioles. When he was here for the 1993 All-Star Game he praised Camden Yards as a place where he'd like to play.
Later that year, and again last year, Van Slyke's name came up in trade talks that never reached the serious stage. Now, the Orioles' interest could be heightened because they wouldn't have to give up draft choices as compensation.
"I'm not saying that's necessarily the case in this instance, but sometimes that helps," said Hemond.
Van Slyke's offensive numbers have dropped off since he hit .324 with 45 doubles, 14 homers and 89 RBIs in 1992. He hit .310 in 1993 but played in only 83 games after breaking his collarbone running into the center-field fence at St. Louis' Busch Stadium in June. Last season he hit .246 and had only 27 extra-base hits in 374 at-bats.
Baseball's proposed new guidelines have created many restricted free agents, but for now they are generally being ignored by agents. "You can talk contract," said Hemond, "but the problem is that nobody is signing. The Players Association has told agents not to sign."
Van Slyke has no restrictions, but teams are operating under the theory there will be some sort of salary cap.
"We're looking at those in whom we have some interest and talking to their representatives to see how much interest the players might have in us," said Hemond. "Then we'll take it from there.
"But we haven't reached a point [with Van Slyke] where any figures have been discussed," he added.
Last month, the Orioles aggressively pursued Seattle outfielder Jay Buhner, offering $18 million over four years. But Buhner ended up re-signing with the Mariners for $15.5 million over three years.
The Orioles' outfield is unsettled. Along with Brady Anderson, Jeffrey Hammonds has been assumed to be a starter. But Hammonds is rehabilitating from knee surgery. Prospects in the organization include Damon Buford, Curtis Goodwin, Mark Smith, Sherman Obando and Alex Ochoa.