The Orioles decided yesterday to bring All-Star center fielder Brady Anderson back for 1997, if not longer, but it appears third baseman Todd Zeile will not return next season.
The Orioles exercised their option on Anderson, 32, for $4 million, and general manager Pat Gillick said the club will begin speaking with his agent about extending Anderson's contract in the coming weeks on the heels of the center fielder's breakthrough season in which he became the first Oriole ever to hit 50 home runs.
Zeile, who filed for free agency Sunday, was acquired from Philadelphia on Aug. 29, and finished with a total of 25 homers and 99 RBIs between the Orioles and Phillies. Gillick spoke with Zeile's agent yesterday, and said it does not appear the infielder fits into their plans.
"We had discussions today, and, at this point, I don't think [Zeile] is coming back," Gillick said. "We're leaning in another direction."
Asked if "leaning in another direction" referred to moving shortstop Cal Ripken to third base, Gillick responded, "it could possibly."
Zeile, a California native, said during the season he thought he would be traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers and not the Orioles, but, at season's end, Zeile said he would like to return to the Orioles. However, the Dodgers still need a third baseman.
Anderson, who has been with the Orioles since the end of 1988, set a major-league record by leading off 12 games with homers and became the 14th player to hit 50 or more home runs in a season.
In addition to his 110 RBIs, he scored more than 100 runs for the third time in his career and hit a career-high .297. Anderson and Ripken are part of an all-star team that is traveling to Japan, and thus the center fielder was unavailable for comment.
Gillick said the Orioles would like to discuss extending Anderson's contract when his agent returns from Japan.
"We are very pleased to have Brady back in the fold for the 1997 season," Gillick said. "He has been an integral part of the Orioles for the past six years."
The Orioles also have expressed interest in keeping pitcher David Wells.
Wells finished this past season with an 11-14 record and 5.14 ERA, but was one of the Orioles' most valuable pitchers in the postseason. Wells' agent, Gregg Clifton, said he was pleased with an initial meeting he had with Gillick and assistant GM Kevin Malone during the World Series.
"We had a very open discussion, and they expressed a desire to have David back as one of the main members of their staff," Clifton said. "We agreed David would file for free agency, and we'll continue to talk over the next several weeks."
Clifton said he and Wells are seeking a three-year deal and the Orioles favor giving the 33-year-old left-hander a two-year contract. Clifton said he expects numerous teams to express interest in Wells, and hopes to finalize a deal by January.
Clifton said one factor working in the Orioles' favor is owner Peter Angelos and his decision to veto trades for Wells down the stretch.
"The impact of someone of Peter Angelos' stature stepping up for David was huge," Clifton said. "I can't stress that enough. It really weighed heavily on David. He's never played for a better owner than Peter Angelos. He said that to me many times. All things being equal, he would love to be back with the Orioles."
The Orioles also would like to bring back reliever Jesse Orosco, but Orosco is sitting on their final offer until a vote is taken on baseball's proposed collective bargaining agreement. If the proposal goes through, the Orioles would lose their repeater rights to Orosco, who also filed for free agency Sunday, and he would become a free agent. Orosco's agent, Alan Meersand, said the reliever would be very interested in signing with either the San Diego Padres or California Angels -- teams near his home.
Meersand said if the left-hander does not become a free agent, he would accept the Orioles' offer of a one-year contract with an option, for a base salary of about $700,000.
"If a [labor] deal gets voted in, Jesse gets to test the waters," Meersand said. "If the deal doesn't go through, then Jesse is more than happy to come back to the Orioles."
Gillick said: "We'd like for him to come back. But these things happen. Sometimes along the road you get glitches."
Gillick said the Orioles also would lose their repeater rights on outfielder Bobby Bonilla if the new collective bargaining agreement is voted in. Gillick said he and Malone have yet to discuss Bonilla's future with his agent. "At this point, we are still making a decision on what we want to do," Gillick said.
The Orioles already have made a decision on backup catcher Mark Parent, who also filed for free agency yesterday. The Orioles offered Parent a minor-league deal, and his agent, John Boggs, said the catcher will not return to the team without a major-league deal.
The Orioles also are checking into the career plans of Ryan Minor, their 33rd-round pick in the 1996 draft and a former standout basketball player at the University of Oklahoma.
Minor, a second-round NBA draft pick, was waived by the Philadelphia 76ers yesterday. Gary Nickels, Orioles scouting director, plans to speak with Minor's agent this week to see if the third baseman plans to play baseball year-round.
O's free agents
The 10 Orioles potentially eligible for free agency. Eligible players may file through Nov. 10 (r-under restriction against repeat free agency in a five-year span and may file only if team does not offer salary arbitration by Oct. 31):
r-Bobby Bonilla, of; Mike Devereaux, of; Pete Incaviglia, of; Roger McDowell, rhp; r-Eddie Murray, 1b; r-Jesse Orosco, lhp; r-Mark Parent, c; Bill Ripken, 2b; David Wells, lhp; Todd Zeile, 3b.
Pub Date: 10/29/96