There is speculation that the contract Jesse Orosco agreed to last week would be voided if owners approve baseball's proposed labor agreement today, but Orioles officials say the reliever's deal is final.
Orosco is one of a group of free agents who could be offered salary arbitration because they were subject to repeater rights by their 1996 clubs. The proposed labor agreement would eliminate repeater rights, and those players would become unrestricted free agents.
However, two of the repeater rights players have agreed to new contracts -- Orosco and Chicago Cubs reliever Bob Patterson.
There is a possibility owners could pass the labor agreement today, although as of last night they weren't scheduled to vote on the proposal. If the proposal passes, many baseball experts believe the players association will only agree to the bargaining agreement if it includes a provision making Orosco's and Patterson's deals invalid.
"We've already checked it out, and legally it's a deal," Orioles assistant general manager Kevin Malone said. "It can't be voided. It's been confirmed through baseball's league of representatives. It's a legal contract, a done deal."
Alan Meersand, Orosco's agent, said he agrees with Malone , but added that the fate of the contract could be out of his hands.
"I would never renege on it now, and neither would Jesse," Meersand said. "It's a done deal. Jesse hasn't signed it yet, but it's a contract. It could be that the union will declare it void, and if so, we'll follow what they say. Will I declare the contract void? No. If the union asked for our opinion on the matter, I think Jesse would want to remain signed."
Orosco, who will turn 40 in April, agreed to a one-year deal worth as much as $1.1 million with options for 1998 and 1999. He is one of the best left-handed setup men in baseball and the only free agent the Orioles retained through arbitration.
Several West Coast teams covet Orosco, who expressed a desire to stay near his family and home in the San Diego area during negotiations with the Orioles. The Padres were interested in acquiring Orosco before the trade deadline, and Meersand said if the labor agreement had been approved then (it was voted down 18-12), Orosco would have ended up in San Diego.
In other Orioles news:
The representative for free-agent catcher Tom Pagnozzi said he has had informal discussions with GM Pat Gillick. Pagnozzi, 34, hit .270 with 13 homers for St. Louis last year. He made $2,675,000 and is regarded as a good defensive catcher. The Orioles also are interested in catchers Terry Steinbach and Benito Santiago, who hit for more power but are more costly.
"Our discussions were pretty short and not very substantial at this point," said Barry Meister, Pagnozzi's agent. "We indicated when and if they're ready to talk, Tom is interested. Tom spent a lot of time talking with Cal [Ripken] and Brady [Anderson] on their tour of Japan, and they told him what a great time they have playing in Baltimore."
Gillick and Malone were in Houston yesterday talking with free-agent center fielder Darryl Hamilton, but Gillick would not comment on the meeting.