Trade daze passing Hemond by

April 06, 1995|By KEN ROSENTHAL

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Three weeks to win a pennant, that's what we said yesterday. Three weeks to win a pennant, and the Orioles are on their way to 0-21.

John Franco to the New York Mets -- 0-1.

John Wetteland to the New York Yankees -- 0-2.

Ken Hill to the St. Louis Cardinals -- 0-3.

We won't count Brian McRae to the Chicago Cubs, because the Orioles have six Brian McRaes, and can't trade any of them.

We won't even count Larry Walker to the Colorado Rockies, because it isn't official yet, and because it would be stupid to blow $20 million on a player with physical and off-field problems.

But pull the trigger?

Roland Hemond can't even find the gun.

For those keeping score, the Yankees now have landed Wetteland and Jack McDowell for two minor-leaguers, two players to be named and cash.

No way George Steinbrenner will fire general manager Gene Michael for his recent arrest on drunken-driving charges.

Think of what Michael could accomplish when sober.

Remember, the Yankees led the AL East by 6 1/2 games when the strike hit last season -- and that was before the Orioles' annual September collapse.

Now the Yanks' staff includes McDowell and Wetteland, while the Orioles' only off-season acquisitions were a second baseman (Bret Barberie) and backup catcher (Matt Nokes).

Way to close the gap.

Let's see now if the Orioles blow the Marquis Grissom sweepstakes. They should be the leading contender for the best center fielder in baseball. Yet, even if they get Grissom, their pitching won't be good enough.

In fairness, they offered Franco $700,000 more than the Mets did, and even said they'd rent him a condominium in the Inner Harbor.

They got used.

It happens.

But allowing your chief division rival to obtain a 28-year-old closer for next to nothing?

That should never happen.

Now Expos GM Kevin Malone says he probably will trade Grissom by tomorrow. And it's possible he'd snub two interested clubs, the Florida Marlins and Boston Red Sox.

The Expos considered it stealing from the poor when the Marlins reached agreements with Hill and Grissom when they were restricted free agents, and the Red Sox did the same with Wetteland.

Of course, Malone also can't stand Orioles owner Peter Angelos, but he said in February that if Hemond made the best trade proposal for a player, he'd take it.

Grissom for Jimmy Haynes and Alex Ochoa? If such a deal is offered, the Orioles should grab it. Grissom, Brady Anderson and Jeffrey Hammonds would form the fastest outfield in baseball -- and Grissom also is an offensive dynamo.

Then again, why even entertain such a fantasy? In 7 1/2 years with the Orioles, Hemond hasn't made a trade as meaningful as the two Michael has completed in the past four months.

Oh, the Orioles expressed interest in Wetteland. And the Expos listed the prospects they wanted. But that's as far as it got.

Where was Hemond?

Waiting for a phone call.

"I didn't know if we'd hear back from them," he said.

Hemond said the last time he spoke to Malone was three or four days ago. He implied that Malone's demands were unreasonable. But look at what the Yankees gave up:

* Twenty-year-old outfielder Fernando Seguignol, a .262 hitter in two seasons at Class A.

* A player to be named whom Malone described as a "fringe" prospect.

* And cash -- "probably a lot," Hemond said.

This is a deal the Orioles couldn't top?

Ochoa is more advanced than Siguignol. A fringe prospect is one you'd trade in a minute. And cash is something the Orioles supposedly aren't short of.

But wait, there's more.

Hemond said the Orioles weren't even involved in the pursuit of Hill, whom the Cardinals stole for pitcher Bryan Eversgerd and two minor-leaguers who spent last season at Single-A.

Hill was 16-5 last season.

The Orioles don't need bums like that.

"With any of these guys, you're taking on what is probably going to be a real long-term contract to retain him," Hemond said.

"We had interest [in Hill]. But you've got to weigh the situation."

Whoa there, Roland.

Is money now a problem?

The signals are rather confusing, but the Orioles still could make out all right -- one way or another, hundreds of players will be available this spring.

Still, they're not going to get a McDowell. They're not going to get a Hill. And they're not going to get a Wetteland.

Manager Phil Regan said rookie Armando Benitez is "almost at the stage John Wetteland was at three years ago," when Wetteland was traded from Los Angeles to Cincinnati to Montreal, and his career took off.

Regan seems comfortable with Benitez as his closer, if he can bring him along slowly. Of course, the only way he can bring him along slowly is if the club finds a veteran who also can do the job.

It could be Mike Fetters, who probably won't be offered salary arbitration by Milwaukee.

It could be Jeff Montgomery, whom Kansas City probably is willing to trade.

Or it could be 37-year-old free agent Doug Jones.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox are trying to land Kevin Appier, and the Texas Rangers might deal Kenny Rogers before allowing him to become a free agent.

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