O's free-agent plans in holding pattern Contacts are made, but owners' vote looms

November 05, 1996|By Jason LaCanfora | Jason LaCanfora,SUN STAFF

The Orioles are almost done contacting free agents, and now the club is waiting for tomorrow's vote on a collective bargaining agreement before it proceeds with off-season activities, assistant general manager Kevin Malone said yesterday.

If the major-league owners approve the collective bargaining agreement, it would affect the free-agent status of numerous players. The Orioles would lose their repeater rights to Jesse Orosco, Eddie Murray and Bobby Bonilla, and all three players would become unrestricted free agents.

Other players Malone said the Orioles would have interest in, such as Oakland Athletics shortstop Mike Bordick and Montreal Expos outfielder Moises Alou, would become free agents, too, if they were awarded service time for the 1994 lockout in the new agreement.

Malone confirmed the Orioles' interest in free-agent pitcher John Smoltz, who led the majors with 24 wins for the Atlanta Braves this year. Smoltz's agent, Miles Shoda, said he expects the Orioles to be among a group of four teams that pursue Smoltz seriously.

"Anybody with that kind of potential -- that could improve our club and be a No. 1 or No. 2 starter for us -- we definitely have interest in," Malone said. "All signs point to him remaining in Atlanta, but I believe if there is a chance he'll move and go elsewhere, we'll be one of the few teams he seriously considers.

"We'll see how the matter proceeds with the Braves. At some point we'll get the opportunity to show that Baltimore would be a good home for John."

Malone also said the Orioles discussed their options for the outfield next year, and said they would like to bring back free agent Pete Incaviglia, but do not expect Mike Devereaux, also a free agent, to return.

"Our interest in Mike is minimal," Malone said. "He did a great job for us in 1996, but at this point we're focusing in a different direction."

Devereaux, 33, was used sparingly in the second half and hit .229 with 34 RBIs. Incaviglia, 32, didn't play much either after being acquired from Philadelphia in August, and hit .303 with two homers and eight RBIs in just 33 at-bats with the Orioles.

"I think [Incaviglia's] situation is one where he could DH some and play in the outfield," Malone said. "His main asset was he was such a positive force in the clubhouse and on the bench."

The Orioles already have spoken with John Hamilton, the agent for his brother, Texas Rangers free-agent center fielder Darryl Hamilton. John Hamilton said he is scheduled to meet with Rangers GM Doug Melvin this week, but added, "I think Doug pretty much knows we don't have any intention of signing with his team until we have a chance to sit down with some other clubs that are interested in Darryl."

Malone said the Orioles would like to pursue Alou, too, should he be declared a free agent tomorrow. Malone said the Orioles already have spoken with Jim Bronner, Alou's agent, about several of his clients (not including Alou) and the Orioles will meet with Bronner at the winter meetings in Arizona.

"We've made general contact with [Bronner]," Malone said. "There are a number of players he represents that we would like to discuss the possibility of them becoming Orioles in further detail."

Bronner's free-agent clients include left-hander Jamie Moyer, right-hander Jaime Navarro (who hasn't declared yet), right-hander Kevin Tapani, reliever Eric Plunk and catcher Mike Stanley.

Catching is another priority on the Orioles' off-season wish list, Malone said, and there are plenty of free agents available, such as Stanley, St. Louis' Tom Pagnozzi and Philadelphia's Benito Santiago.

The Orioles are waiting to see whether the A's lose their repeater rights to catcher Terry Steinbach and Malone said there are several other catchers the team would be interested in, too. Chris Hoiles, the Orioles regular catcher since 1991, has had shoulder problems and had difficulty throwing out runners this past year.

"Catching is definitely a position we'd like to improve in," Malone said. "We've got a group of guys we're looking at that we think if we add to our club will make us a better club and would make Chris Hoiles stronger because he wouldn't have to carry such a load."

As for relievers, Malone said the Orioles would like to retain Orosco, 39, who had another productive season as the Orioles' left-handed setup man. However, Orosco's agent said that if the Orioles lose their repeater rights to Orosco he would likely end up with one of the Southern California teams close to Orosco's home.

Malone said if Orosco does not become an unrestricted free agent, the Orioles will try to sign him, or, if necessary, will go to arbitration to keep the pitcher in Baltimore. If the Orioles lose Orosco, Malone said the team would be interested in signing another lefty, possibly Chicago White Sox free agent Tony Castillo, 33, who was 5-4 with a 3.60 ERA in 1996.

"Our main interest in a left-handed situational guy is Jesse," Malone said. "If we don't have Jesse back, we have interest in a couple of left-handed setup guys. The only way Jesse won't be back is if the rules change [tomorrow] and he becomes an unrestricted free agent."

On another front, Ryan Minor, a former basketball star at the University of Oklahoma, and the Orioles' 33rd-round pick in the June draft, signed with Oklahoma City of the Continental Basketball Association yesterday after being cut by the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Orioles are still hoping Minor, a third base prospect, chooses to play baseball full time by the start of spring training, and continue to speak with his agent.

Pub Date: 11/05/96

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