O's game plan should begin with Alomar Free agent would fill leadoff, speed needs, make infield the best

7 other suggestions offered

Move Anderson

sign McDonald or Brown

September 26, 1995|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

The advantage that the Orioles have over most other teams, a baseball official was saying last week, is that they have the power to reload quickly. They've had a crummy season, and yet, by flexing their financial might and making a few moves, the Orioles could be front-runners. Your Camden Yards cash at work.

Here's one opinion on the moves they should make:

1. Sign Roberto Alomar. The second baseman will be expensive, no doubt, but in what figures to be a depressed market, maybe a little less costly than folks expect. Alomar will have a hard time matching Barry Bonds' contract; perhaps he could be signed for five years and between $27.5 million and $30 million.

If this is the only major move the Orioles can make in the off-season, they should do it, because Alomar would fill many different needs. First, if the Orioles decided once and for all Brady Anderson is not a leadoff hitter, Alomar could play that role and be superb. In fact, he could hit anywhere in the lineup and be extraordinary.

Above all, he would make the Orioles' defense and pitching better. His presence would allow Cal Ripken to cheat just a little ++ more, and take a little pressure off Bobby Bonilla at third. Think of it this way: With the next-best second baseman available, free agent-to-be Craig Biggio, the Orioles would have an average defensive infield. With Alomar, they arguably could have the best.

2. Acquire a top-notch right-handed middle reliever. Without the injured Mark Eichhorn, they've continually fallen out of games in the seventh and eighth innings this year. Middle relievers usually become available in November and December, when teams decide whether or not to tender contracts, and the Orioles should be very attentive to who's on the market and plan on spending around $750,000 -- which should get you a pretty good reliever. This year, the Orioles gambled that they could get by with rookie Armando Benitez, who had 10 innings in the majors, and Alan Mills, who was coming off a bad year -- and they lost.

3. Move Anderson to center field. Curtis Goodwin has shown he needs more time in the minors. Anderson's a superlative outfielder. Simple.

4. Acquire one speed guy and one power guy for left field and designated hitter. These two moves have to be made in concert. The Orioles need to improve their team speed, and need one more big bopper in their order. So if they choose to re-sign Harold Baines, or sign Eddie Murray, then their outfield acquisition needs to be someone who can run. The St. Louis Cardinals may not tender a contract to left fielder Bernard Gilkey, who has decent speed. Chicago's Lance Johnson and Toronto's Devon White are free agents (if either one of these guys is signed, then Anderson stays in left field).

On the other hand, if the Orioles sign Paul Molitor at designated hitter -- he still runs OK -- then they should set their sights on a power hitter such as Minnesota's Pedro Munoz, Oakland's Geronimo Berroa, or Texas' Mickey Tettleton, all of whom may be available for somewhere in the range of $1 million.

If the Orioles wanted to go all out -- money being no object -- they could go after Chicago Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa, who could play right and give them power, speed and defense.

(Another intriguing possibility for DH would be Milwaukee's Kevin Seitzer, a tough hitter who would offer less power but more versatility than Baines and Murray. Seitzer, an All-Star this year, could play third if the Orioles decided to move Bonilla to the outfield. Seitzer likely wouldn't be that expensive, either, having earned $500,000 this year.)

5. Pay the market value for starters. The Orioles should recognize the fact that there is going to be a wealth of pitching on the market this off-season and plan accordingly; in this way, they could have more money to go after an Alomar or Sosa or both.

Here's just a partial list of starting pitchers eligible for free agency this fall: Jim Abbott, Chuck Finley, Dennis Martinez, Tom Gordon, Al Leiter, Jaime Navarro, Tom Candiotti, Ramon Martinez, Kenny Rogers -- and that group could be augmented dramatically if service time for the strike is awarded, and by players not tendered contracts. It will be a buyer's market, and the Orioles should treat it as such.

They should try to retain Scott Erickson. But if he looks to double his salary of $1.8625 million, the Orioles can look elsewhere.

Ben McDonald is coming off a year when he's had shoulder problems and won two games, and it's been three years since Kevin Brown was a big winner. Sign one of them (or both, if Erickson doesn't work out). As the Reds did with Hal Morris and Kevin Mitchell, the Orioles should offer a $2 million contract, loaded with incentives, to McDonald and Brown. First guy to accept gets the deal.

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