Deals fade as O's romp Angelos seen nixing Wells, Bonilla trades

Twins are routed, 16-4

Team hits nine doubles

Owner apparently sees deals as breaking faith

July 31, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

MINNEAPOLIS -- There's a chance Bobby Bonilla will be traded to the Atlanta Braves or San Diego Padres today, and maybe David Wells will be dealt to Cleveland. But it's highly unlikely because, according to club sources, owner Peter Angelos has decided he wants to keep the Orioles as competitive as possible for the rest of the 1996 season -- against the advice of his baseball staff and for the sake of fans who've already invested in this year's team.

The policy decision virtually guarantees the Orioles will be delving into the free-agent market again this off-season as they attempt to acquire a catcher, an outfielder and pitching.

Wells and Bonilla, in all likelihood, will be part of the Orioles' effort to catch Seattle in the wild-card race. They're 4 1/2 games behind the Mariners after beating Minnesota, 16-4, last night. The Orioles hit nine doubles. B. J. Surhoff hit a two-run homer and Rocky Coppinger allowed just five hits and two runs over seven innings to improve his record to 6-2.

According to club sources, general manager Pat Gillick met with Angelos on Monday morning to discuss possible trades leading up to tonight's midnight (EDT) deadline. Gillick could not be reached to comment yesterday, so it's not known exactly how he feels about dealing Bonilla or Wells.

But sources indicate the consensus of those in the team's baseball operations -- headed by Gillick and assistant GM Kevin Malone -- was that the Orioles should trade Bonilla and Wells and maybe others (like Jesse Orosco) for young prospects.

The Orioles were poised to send Wells to Seattle for Triple-A catcher Chris Widger and infielder Desmond Relaford. And they've talked with a number of teams about swapping Bonilla for younger players.

The Braves, in need of a slugger to replace David Justice, could dangle pitcher Jason Schmidt or catcher Eddie Perez for Bonilla, and the Padres also have young pitchers. Those kind of deals would augment the Orioles' thin collection of major-league- ready prospects.

By trading Wells, however, the Orioles would have all but conceded the last two months of the season and the wild-card race. The team probably would have finished the season with a rotation that included three rookies -- Rocky Coppinger (who has a 5.30 ERA) Jimmy Haynes (7.24) and Garrett Stephenson (9.00) -- and veterans Mike Mussina and Scott Erickson.

Angelos, according to club sources, did not want the Orioles to play the last two months exposed to the possibility of regular beatings, the owner seeing it almost as a breach of faith with fans who have already paid for tickets for August and September. Angelos wants "to make sure this team stays competitive," said one source, "and trading away the guy who has been the team's best pitcher [Wells] doesn't fit with that [philosophy]."

Another source said: "[Angelos] just doesn't think it was right for the fans."

Angelos would have been willing to trade Wells and Bonilla if the Orioles could have gotten top-flight major-league pitching in return -- pitchers who could have kept the team competitive. But those deals probably aren't available. San Diego's top offer for Bonilla has been relief pitcher Bryce Florie; the Padres seem unwilling to part with a starter, such as Tim Worrell.

Malone is traveling with the team and spent most of yesterday talking with other general managers. He would not confirm or deny Angelos' stance. But before Malone was asked, he told a group of reporters the Orioles "will give the fans the best-possible team right now, as well as for the future. . . . We don't want to dismantle the club with a chance at the wild card [playoff spot].

"We're going to work on making the 1997 team better, and if we can't do it now, we'll do it after the season."

L All in accordance with what sources say are Angelos' wishes.

Malone continued: "The bottom line is we want to do what's best for the fans. We want to have the best possible team for now and in the future."

With the trade of Wells to Seattle seemingly dead -- the Mariners traded for another left-hander last night, Jamie Moyer -- the Orioles must look for someone other than Widger to catch for fTC them next year. The most attractive free agent will be Terry Steinbach, along with Benito Santiago.

The team intends to pursue a strong defensive outfielder with speed, someone like Brian McRae. They must add pitching. All of it is going to be expensive, but as two sources said, Angelos has told his baseball staff he's willing to spend whatever is required to re-tool the team for '97, without breaking apart the 1996 Orioles.

There's an outside chance Wells could be traded to the Indians for young pitchers like Alan Embree or Julian Tavarez. Bonilla could go to San Diego or Chicago, but according to a highly placed major-league source, the Padres were closing in on a deal for another slugger (Milwaukee's Greg Vaughn or Pittsburgh's Orlando Merced) last night.

Manager Davey Johnson acknowledged before last night's game he didn't think the Orioles would be making any trades. "I don't think we will," Johnson said, after meeting at length with Malone. "The only move I can see us doing is adding [Jeffrey] Hammonds."

The Orioles could make a lesser trade. The Dodgers, looking for backup outfielders -- Mike Devereaux or Luis Polonia? -- had a scout in attendance at the Metrodome.

With Bonilla in the lineup and Wells watching from the dugout last night, the Orioles jumped all over Minnesota starter Frank Rodriguez, who was relieved after failing to retire the first five hitters.

The Orioles led 5-0 after the first inning, 12-2 after the seventh and added four runs in the eighth, achieving a season-high for runs.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Minnesota Twins

Site: Metrodome, Minneapolis

Time: 8: 05 p.m.

TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Mike Mussina (11-8, 5.24) vs. Twins' Brad Radke (6-13, 4.93)

Pub Date: 7/31/96

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