Stanton warming in O's 'pen?

January 31, 1995|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

Whenever the impasse on free-agent signings is lifted, the Orioles and Cincinnati Reds are expected to be the top bidders for Mike Stanton, the former Atlanta Braves left-handed reliever.

Seth Levinson, the New York-based agent who handles Stanton's negotiations, confirmed last night that the Orioles had made "a very fair offer." But he wouldn't say if they are the front-runner.

"What baseball player wouldn't want to play for the Orioles?" asked Levinson. "What player wouldn't want to play for Peter Angelos?"

Angelos' stance against using replacement players has endeared him to all major-league players -- especially those on the open market.

"It is something Mike has to consider," Levinson said of the Orioles' offer, "but the circumstances are such that nothing is close to being finalized. They've made an offer which will get very serious consideration, but I can't say they are the No. 1 team.

"But, because of who they [Orioles] are and the manner in which they have conducted themselves, it makes them very, very attractive."

General manager Roland Hemond has acknowledged the Orioles' interest, but said he thought Stanton might be "leaning in another direction."

Atlanta GM John Schuerholz said the Braves are interested in retaining Stanton, 27, who was 3-1 with a 3.55 ERA and three saves in 49 games last season. "But whether or not we're still legitimately in the picture I don't know," he said. "I'd heard he was close with Cincinnati.

"We'd like to have Mike back -- from time to time he did a good job for us. He had 25 saves in the first half of the season two years ago."

Under the new system implemented by baseball, but not approved by the players association, Stanton became an unrestricted free agent when the Braves failed to make him a qualifying offer. The fact that he was not tendered a contract also would make him eligible for free agency under the old system.

Levinson wouldn't identify the other interested parties, other than to say "there are three teams involved." He also indicated that a particular team's needs would be the deciding factor.

"It probably will not come down to money," said Levinson. "Mike wants to get back to the point where he can be the closer.

"He feels he unjustly lost that job with the Braves in 1993, and rightly so. He had 27 saves and a 2.50 earned run average in save situations [when he lost the job]. He wants the chance to either be the primary closer, or to at least share the role."

Stanton finished the 1993 season with 27 saves and an inflated 4.67 ERA. He lost the closer's job to Greg McMichael, who recorded 19 saves in the second half of the season.

The Orioles and Reds both fit the description of the kind of team that would interest Stanton. The Orioles are looking for an experienced reliever to pick up the slack created by the departure of Lee Smith, who led the majors with 33 saves last year.

Although there has been speculation that the embargo against free-agent signings could be lifted as early as this week, Levinson isn't so sure. "My gut reaction is that it shouldn't be lifted," he said.

"The feeling is that those who sign would be accepting the abusive and unfair conditions set down by the owners. And when I say that I am not including Mr. Angelos.

"Right now the approach of the general managers seems to be 'I can't reach an agreement, so what am I talking to you about?' "

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