O's take aim at Wells, Smoltz Team ready to deliver

offers in bid to sign both

November 19, 1996|By Jason LaCanfora | Jason LaCanfora,SUN STAFF

General manager Pat Gillick and assistant GM Kevin Malone will meet with owner Peter Angelos this week to complete the Orioles' 40-man roster and free-agent wish list, but it appears certain that signing starting pitchers David Wells and John Smoltz are priorities.

The Orioles spoke with representatives for the free-agent pitchers yesterday and remain optimistic they will be in the hunt to sign both.

Wells was 11-14 with a 5.14 ERA for the Orioles in 1996, but was a solid playoff performer for a team that needs left-handed starters. Wells has a 90-75 record with a 3.99 ERA and is being courted by the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees, among other teams.

The Yankees were expected to make Wells an offer last night, but Malone, who spoke with Wells' agent, Gregg Clifton, yesterday, said that won't preclude the Orioles from making their pitch to the 33-year-old.

"David Wells is still very interested in the Baltimore Orioles," Malone said. "He is listening to what other clubs have to offer, but we're definitely in his plans. Gregg Clifton is a man of his word and he said that the Baltimore Orioles will

have every chance to retain David Wells."

Malone said Clifton would get in touch with the Orioles after hearing from the Yankees. Wells is looking for a three-year contract, but the Orioles have said they would like to sign him for two.

Malone also spoke with the representatives for Smoltz, who led the majors with 24 wins in capturing the National League Cy Young Award. Many baseball people still expect Smoltz to re-sign with the Atlanta Braves, but the Orioles, Yankees and Indians are seriously interested in him as well.

The Indians are believed to have offered Smoltz a three-year deal worth $7.5 million a year. Malone said he is scheduled to have further discussions with Smoltz's agent and the Orioles expect to have an initial offer ready in a few days. The offer would give Smoltz an indication of what salary range the Orioles are considering for him, but would not contain details.

"I don't think we're ready to make a general offer at this point," Malone said, "but we'll be ready to step it up pretty much in the next few days."

The Orioles are being extremely careful whom they negotiate with, Malone said, because their first signing will dictate the general direction of the team's off-season pursuits.

"We want to really be calculated right now," Malone said. "We want to make sure the first move is the right move. The first move is the foundation for everything else. If you start with the right choice or the right decision, then the right decisions will follow."

The Orioles have a lot of options to start with. They are pursuing catchers, shortstops, center fielders and several pitchers, both starters and relievers.

John Hamilton, who represents his brother, free-agent center fielder Darryl Hamilton, said he has heard from four teams, including the Indians, but the most serious interest has come from the Orioles and the Texas Rangers, Hamilton's team this past season.

"A couple of teams want to come in and meet with us, but we've pretty much put all of those on the back burner until we meet with Baltimore," John Hamilton said. "That lets you know the interest we have in Baltimore. Pat Gillick was one of the first to call and show interest, and that's just the way I do business."

Hamilton has spoken with Rangers GM Doug Melvin several times as well.

"I know [the Rangers] are very, very interested in retaining Darryl, but I do also know they have budgetary concerns and I'm not so sure they're going to be able to do the kind of deal that would have to be done to keep him. I do believe they'll make an effort."

Hamilton is seeking a three-year deal in the $11 million range.

Patrick Elster, the representative for free-agent shortstop Kevin Elster, said three teams, including the Orioles, have contacted him, and one has offered a one-year deal with an option. Elster said his brother is looking for a two- or three-year contract worth about $3 million a year, and expects an offer from his former team, the Rangers, soon.

"If the Rangers made the right deal, we'd sign it right away," Patrick Elster said. "We're very anxious to get it done. We don't want to test the free-agent market for the next two months. We want to put it to bed and enjoy the holidays."

Malone said the Orioles are going to speak with Elster again soon.

The Orioles talked to the San Diego Padres about the possibility of trading All-Star second baseman Roberto Alomar at the winter meeting last week, but nothing is expected to come of it.

"They said they were interested in Alomar, but no real discussions took place," Malone said. "Our focus is on free-agent acquisitions, not trades."

Pub Date: 11/19/96

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