Orioles don't have horses to trade

June 18, 1995|By BUSTER OLNEY

Trading for Houston Astros pitcher Doug Drabek or second baseman Craig Biggio would solve a couple of problems for the Orioles. They could use a No. 4 starter, or somebody to inject some adrenalin into their stagnant offense.

Wanting Drabek and/or Biggio and having the means to get them, however, are two different matters, and the Orioles don't have much in the way of tradable commodities.

They either have veterans with expensive, long-term contracts, or very young prospects who haven't developed enough for the Orioles to know what they could become.

Making trades is a lot easier if you have something in between, legitimate prospects backed up in Triple-A or good major-leaguers with four years or less of service time.

You could break down the Orioles' major-league roster into several categories:

* Untouchables with big contracts: shortstop Cal Ripken, first baseman Rafael Palmeiro and pitcher Mike Mussina.

* Untouchables because of their contracts: catcher Chris Hoiles, pitchers Sid Fernandez and Ben McDonald, second baseman Bret Barberie and third baseman Leo Gomez. (Anybody who trades for McDonald now, after he won his $4.5 million arbitration decision, must expect to pay him around $5 million next year.)

* Untouchables because of their ages and contracts: catcher Matt Nokes, outfielders Andy Van Slyke and Kevin Bass, pitchers Doug Jones, Jamie Moyer and Jesse Orosco. (Although Van Slyke, Bass, Nokes and Orosco could be moved in minor deals).

* Untouchables because the Orioles see them as an integral part of their future: outfielders Jeffrey Hammonds and Curtis Goodwin and pitcher Kevin Brown.

* Untouchables because they don't have a lot of trade value: pitchers Terry Clark, Mark Lee and Mike Oquist.

* Former big-time prospects whose value has diminished: pitcher Arthur Rhodes, second baseman Manny Alexander.

That leaves, at the major-league level, two players with some trade value, and even then there are qualifiers.

Third baseman Jeff Manto is coveted by several teams, but not as a regular, and as long as he's producing so much offense for such a small price ($140,000 salary this season), the Orioles should hang onto him.

The other is left fielder Brady Anderson, who has trade value because he runs well and because he can play anywhere in the outfield. He has one year left on his contract after '95, and though he probably will be getting more ($3.3 million this season) than others like him in a diminished market, he could draw some interest.

Trade prospects? Well, it depends on what your definition of a prospect is. The Orioles regard the likes of Rick Krivda, Brian Sackinsky and Scott Klingenbeck as prospects, and they may well turn into good major-leaguers. Klingenbeck is a bulldog, Sackinsky pitches smartly, and Krivda is a left-hander, and you never know with lefties. But other organizations think that the Sackinskys and Mark Smiths are players headed for jobs as middle relievers and spare parts. Those are not the kinds of prospects you need to make trades for guys such as Biggio.

You could trade Alex Ochoa, but the thing is, nobody knows how good he could be. There are major questions whether he'll ever hit consistently enough to become an impact player; one National League scout suggested that the best chance for the strong-armed Ochoa to make an impact is to convert to pitcher.

But he has shown enough tools so that you don't want to give up on him too early. This is not a Manny Alexander scenario, where you have a prospect with an established major-leaguer ahead of him. He's worth hanging onto.

Jimmy Haynes is a tradable commodity. He's highly rated, but many question whether he'll ever have enough savvy to translate into a big-time pitcher. He could go.

And that's about it. Greg Zaun doesn't have much value, nor does Cesar Devarez or some of the other minor-leaguers on the Orioles' 40-man roster.

Since late in spring training, the Orioles have successfully passed three players through waivers -- Krivda, first baseman Paul Carey and outfielder Jim Wawruck -- which indicates that maybe their prospects don't have a lot of value; any team could have claimed those players for $20,000.

Yeah, it would be nice to get Drabek or Biggio. But the Orioles don't have much to offer.

Art of a deal

The St. Louis Cardinals' trade of third baseman Todd Zeile to the Chicago Cubs had some nasty background to it. During the off-season, the Cardinals agreed to give Zeile a three-year, $12 million contract extension. But Zeile started the season on the disabled list, and both sides decided to wait until he was activated to complete the deal.

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