Cool Braves talks could set up Smoltz visit to meet with O's Other clubs can court ace after midnight tomorrow

November 13, 1996|By Jason LaCanfora | Jason LaCanfora,SUN STAFF

Although numerous baseball people say starter John Smoltz still is likely to remain with the Atlanta Braves, the Orioles could get a shot to court the free agent as soon as Friday.

Myles Shoda, Smoltz's agent, said their initial meeting with the Braves did not go as well as planned, and it does not appear the sides will have a deal done by midnight tomorrow. That is when free agents are allowed to field offers from other teams.

Smoltz, the National League Cy Young Award winner, led the majors with 24 wins this past season and made a base salary of $5.25 million. He will increase that salary substantially on the free-agent market. The Orioles have said repeatedly they are interested in Smoltz and would covet the chance to sell him on the organization.

Shoda said the Orioles, Cleveland Indians and Florida Marlins called to express interest in Smoltz. He said no other meetings are planned with the Braves, though the sides could still get together at any time.

The Orioles are nearing that same deadline tomorrow with four of their players. It appears that outfielder Bobby Bonilla, who also is generating lots of interest from the Marlins, and backup catcher Mark Parent will not be offered arbitration and will become unrestricted free agents likely to sign with other clubs.

Designated hitter Eddie Murray is discussing a reduced salary to stay with the club. The Orioles said they will bring back reliever Jesse Orosco, either by signing him to a contract or offering him salary arbitration. Alan Meersand, Orosco's agent, said he expects the Orioles to offer Orosco arbitration, and then probably negotiate a deal before the actual arbitration proceedings, which would take place in February.

The Orioles were offering Orosco a base salary of $675,000, but since then Mark Guthrie, the Los Angeles Dodgers setup man, received a salary in excess of $1 million and Meersand said he expects Orosco to make similar money.

"[Assistant GM] Kevin Malone and I have a lot to talk about," Meersand said. "It doesn't seem like Jesse is a real priority right now and I can understand that because we've got all kinds of time."

Malone said Monday that he does not expect anything significant to happen while he and general manager Pat Gillick are at the GM meetings in Arizona because of baseball's labor uncertainty.

The Orioles did sign a few players, but at the minor-league level.

Right-hander Giovanni Carrara, first baseman Domingo Martinez and left-hander Brian Shouse were signed to minor-league contracts and invited to big-league camp.

Carrara, 28, a former Toronto Blue Jay, pitched very well in Triple-A last year and earned a promotion with the Cincinnati Reds.

"We believe he will have a chance to make our big-league club in spring training," director of player development Syd Thrift said.

Martinez, a minor-league journeyman, was signed out of the Mexican League in August and had seven homers and 38 RBIs in 29 games for Triple-A Rochester. Shouse also played for Rochester, pitching to a 4.50 ERA in 32 relief appearances.

Pub Date: 11/13/96

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