Zeile still in O's plans? Malone envisions more versatile role for former Phillie

He has played OF, 1B, C

Agent: Player fond of Baltimore, Angelos

November 06, 1996|By Jason LaCanfora | Jason LaCanfora,SUN STAFF

The Orioles still have interest in bringing back free agent Todd Zeile -- just not at third base, assistant general manager Kevin Malone said yesterday.

Zeile, 31, who was acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies in August and combined for 99 RBIs between the clubs, said he was told after an initial meeting with the Orioles last week that they did not want to sign him because the club planned to move Cal Ripken from shortstop to third base.

Malone said yesterday he told Seth Levinson, Zeile's agent, that Zeile could be an Oriole next year, but in a versatile role. Zeile, a right-handed hitter, helped balance out the Orioles last year and could possibly do the same in 1997.

"Todd Zeile being our third baseman is not a direction we want to pursue, but Todd Zeile being a member of the Baltimore Orioles is something we might consider," Malone said. "We think because of his athleticism he can do a lot of different things."

Zeile came up through the minors as a catcher and was converted to third base. He has also played left field and first base during his career. Levinson said Zeile loved playing in Baltimore, is fond of owner Peter Angelos and would like to return.

"Todd feels there's unfinished business in Baltimore," Levinson said. "He would most sincerely like to play an entire year with the Orioles. Todd feels that, given the opportunity, the team can take the next step to the World Series. Todd actively participates in the union, and, as a result, he has a great respect for the courageous stance of Mr. Angelos."

During the players strike last year, Angelos said he would refuse to field a replacement team.

The Orioles also spoke to Levinson about left-handed reliever Mike Stanton, 29, and outfielder Mark Carreon, 33. Stanton was 4-4 with a 3.66 ERA in 1996 with Boston and Texas. Stanton has participated in the past five postseasons and has a 0.67 ERA in 22 playoff appearances (27 innings).

The Orioles pursued Stanton in 1994, offering a two-year deal for $1.65 million a season, but Stanton lost his free-agent status and had to return to the Atlanta Braves.

If the Orioles lose their repeater rights to reliever Jesse Orosco and he signs with another team, they would need a left-handed setup man. Malone said the Orioles are "very interested" in Stanton and also like left-hander Tony Castillo of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Levinson said Malone told him the Orioles would be interested in Carreon, who hit .324 with 14 RBIs in 142 at-bats with the Cleveland Indians, depending on a number of circumstances. Even then, they would consider Carreon as a role player and not an everyday starter, Levinson said.

Malone also spoke with the agent for Mark Guthrie, Jaime Navarro and Brady Anderson.

Guthrie, 31, was 2-2 with a 2.22 ERA for the Los Angeles Dodgers this year. Navarro, 29, declined his player option with the Chicago Cubs and became a free agent last week. Navarro, a right-hander starter, was 15-12 with a 3.92 ERA in 1996 and has pitched 200 or more innings in five of the last six seasons.

"The discussion was very positive," Malone said.

"Jaime expressed a lot of interest in becoming a Baltimore Oriole because of the Orioles' commitment to winning, the fans who give us a packed house every night and the fact that Peter Angelos is thought of as being the best owner in the business from a players standpoint."

Malone also inquired into extending the contract of 50-homer hitter Anderson, who is signed to a $4 million option for 1997. Those discussions will continue when Anderson returns from the all-star tour of Japan.

The Orioles also formally expressed a desire to pursue Braves star pitcher John Smoltz. Malone contacted the agent for the right-hander, who led the majors with 24 wins last year and is regarded as the top free-agent pitcher available.

"We expressed our sincere interest in John," Malone said. "We know and understand it will be very difficult for him to leave the Atlanta Braves, but we feel if he makes that very tough decision we'll be a club he strongly considers."

Pub Date: 11/06/96

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