Deal may cost O's, but land them agents Orosco could be a casualty of repeater rights

Market has new look

Award of service time frees Alou, Bordick

November 27, 1996|By Jason LaCanfora | Jason LaCanfora,SUN STAFF

Baseball's new collective bargaining agreement may cost the Orioles reliever Jesse Orosco, but it could help them land a player or two as well.

Owners voted strongly in favor of the new labor deal yesterday, which created several new free agents. A dozen players, including Chicago White Sox right-hander Alex Fernandez, Montreal Expos outfielder Moises Alou and Oakland A's shortstop Mike Bordick, all of whom the Orioles are very interested in, were awarded service time from the 1994 players strike in the new agreement, making them free agents.

Orosco, who agreed to terms with the Orioles on a one-year contract worth as much as $1.1 million last week ($800,000 base salary, $300,000 incentives) with options for 1998 and 1999, could become a "new-look free agent" as soon as next week.

Orosco was previously restricted from free agency because of the repeater-rights rule prohibiting a player from filing for free agency twice in a five-year period. However, the new agreement eliminates the repeater-rights restriction, and Orosco could be granted a window of time during which he can meet with and sign with other teams.

"It's not 100 percent definite yet, but I think [new-look free agency] will probably happen as early as next week," said Alan Meersand, Orosco's agent. "It would be something Jesse would have to consider. Number one, all along it's been no secret Jesse wanted to sign with a team near his home and it's been no secret the [San Diego] Padres are very interested in him."

Meersand spoke twice with Orioles assistant general manager Kevin Malone yesterday and said they are "both on the same page" about Orosco's status.

Meersand said he would like for Orosco to remain with the Orioles, but noted that Orosco is friends with several Padres (longtime Padre Tony Gwynn lives next door), he works out at Jack Murphy Stadium, and the 39-year-old wants to remain near his three children in San Diego.

Meersand said he gave Malone a few possible ways to retain Orosco, should he become a free agent, and the agent said Orosco would consider waiving his free agency in exchange for a signing bonus.

The Orioles are also likely to make a push for Bordick, Fernandez and Alou.

Bordick, 31, is generally regarded as one of the best defensive shortstops in the game and is believed to be atop the Orioles list of potential replacements for Cal Ripken, whom they'd like to move to third. The Orioles have not made offers to Kevin Elster or Shawon Dunston, the other shortstops they've spoken with.

Bordick, who hit .240 in 1996, said he never really thought he'd become a free agent after the A's offered him arbitration, and hasn't really considered his options. Bordick made $4.2 million last year and it will be difficult for the A's to afford him now.

"I have so much respect for Cal Ripken, obviously I never even thought about playing shortstop there," Bordick said. "If we ever came to the point where there would be some negotiations I think I would probably have to speak with Cal Ripken about the move first, to tell you the truth."

Malone has ties to Alou, 30, from their years together in the Expos' organization. The small-market Expos will be hard-pressed to retain the right/left fielder -- a bargain at $3 million last season.

The Orioles also have interest in center fielder Darryl Hamilton, who is looking for a three-year deal in the $11 million range, with the idea of moving Brady Anderson to left, but Anderson could stay in center if Alou were signed.

The Orioles met with Hamilton Monday in Houston, but they did not make a hard offer, Malone said.

"Both sides got some parameters," Malone said. "I'd say there's some division between the two. We might be on the same page, but we're definitely on different sides of the page. We've got some other options available still."

The White Sox are resolved to losing Fernandez, 27, who turned down a five-year, $30 million offer from the club. The Marlins are expected to throw big bucks Fernandez's way, in hopes of landing the Floridian, and Fernandez has expressed an interest in returning home as well.

The right-hander is 65-45 with a 3.65 over the last five years. The Orioles have backed off some other right-handers they were pursuing, and that could be in response to Fernandez's availability.

But the new agreement has the potential to curb the Orioles' free-spending ways as well.

It includes a luxury tax of 35 percent on teams with a payroll above $51 million. The Orioles had a $55 million payroll last year, the second highest in baseball. The tax could cost the Orioles between $5-6 million in 1997, with the funds being re-distributed to small-market teams.

Pub Date: 11/27/96

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