Murray deal? Forget past, think future

July 07, 1996|By Ken Rosenthal

The Orioles acquired Bobby Bonilla to be the reincarnation of Eddie Murray, and now Cleveland wants to obtain him for a 40-year-old Murray?

Sorry, but no thanks.

The Orioles aren't going to trade Bonilla while they're still in contention, according to two sources familiar with the talks.

They need Bonilla to make the playoffs, and before this season is over, they might need Jeffrey Hammonds, too.

Thus, trading Bonilla and Hammonds for Murray and Jeromy Burnitz makes no sense, and it almost certainly will not happen.

The Indians desperately want to unload Murray, but why should the Orioles help a team they might end up battling for a wild card?

Sure, it would be nice to see Murray hit his 500th homer in an Orioles uniform, but 60 of his 80 hits this season have been singles.

The Orioles need a catcher and an outfielder more than a full-time DH, and they could always use pitching, even with a 3.72 ERA in their past 20 games.

The Indians, meanwhile, lost their third straight game to Chicago at Jacobs Field yesterday, reducing their AL Central lead over the White Sox to one game.

Let them panic.

Frankly, it should be the desire of every major-league executive to see such a detestable team fall apart.

The Orioles would be foolish to part with Bonilla for the unproven Burnitz and the fading Murray, and even more foolish if they included Hammonds.

Just go back to July 28, the day they acquired Bonilla and minor-league pitcher Jimmy Williams from the New York Mets for Alex Ochoa and Damon Buford.

Why did the Orioles want Bonilla?

To help them win in either 1995 or '96.

Why did they trade Ochoa?

In part because they still had Curtis Goodwin, Kimera Bartee and Hammonds.

Now Ochoa is in New York, Buford in Texas, Goodwin in Cincinnati and Bartee in Detroit.

Hammonds and Mark Smith are the only survivors from this outfield crop -- and Hammonds is supposedly the one with the greatest potential.

The only way the Orioles should trade him is if the return is a similar player, a talented prospect who might benefit from changing teams.

As for Bonilla, it doesn't matter how many times Ochoa hits for the cycle, or if last year's trade was one the current regime would not have made.

The Orioles have to see this deal through.

A slugger, they wanted a slugger. They made a bad trade losing Murray. They made a worse trade getting Glenn Davis. And they nearly lost the impact of Bonilla by trying to make him a DH.

If there's one thing manager Davey Johnson has learned, it's the importance of offense in the American League. That's why he returned Bonilla to the outfield -- to maximize his production.

Bonilla might not be as dangerous as Murray was in his prime, but he's certainly a presence in the middle of the order. Switch-hitting sluggers are a rare baseball commodity. That's why it was such a coup to land Bonilla in the first place.

Granted, the Orioles would improve their outfield defense if they added Burnitz, and minimize the losses of Ochoa and Buford if they persuaded the Indians to include a young pitcher like Albie Lopez in a Bonilla package.

But would it help them win now?

The Orioles won't regret keeping Bonilla if he leads them to the playoffs. They'll receive a draft pick if he departs as a free agent, and consider it a worthwhile trade.

The trick will be deciding if this club is actually good enough to win -- and the front office should know more after the Orioles play four games against the first-place Yankees at Camden Yards right after the All-Star break.

The previous regime overestimated the quality of last year's team, believing Bonilla could make the difference. The current regime can't make the same mistake, especially if it means losing Hammonds.

Hammonds for Benito Santiago?

Sorry, that's too high a price for renting a catcher.

Burnitz, 27, would make an interesting swap, but Hammonds is two years younger, and healthy for the first time this season. At this stage of their careers, there's no way to tell who will be the better player.

Hammonds is 7-for-42 (.167) at Rochester, and the Indians might be correct in believing that he lacks the desire to become an impact player, and the power to be a corner outfielder.

Burnitz, on the other hand, would be the third left-handed hitting outfielder acquired by the Orioles in the past four months, and who knows if he'd be an improvement on Tony Tarasco and Luis Polonia?

Let's see if Hammonds can fulfill his promise.

Let's see if Bonilla can justify his trade.

The last thing the Orioles need is to see either in a Cleveland uniform, knocking them out of the playoffs.

Pub Date: 7/07/96

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.