FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The Orioles have placed their bid in the San Diego Padres' de facto auction of Japanese star pitcher Hideki Irabu. But even if the Orioles can make a deal with the Padres, there's no assurances they could sign Irabu, who is saying he won't play for anybody but the New York Yankees.
Officials from the Orioles and Padres spoke for the fourth consecutive day yesterday, and sources familiar with the negotiations say the Orioles have submitted a list of players available for a trade -- one of a handful of written offers the Padres have received. The Yankees, New York Mets, Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox, Anaheim Angels, San Francisco Giants and Cleveland Indians are among the other teams who have reportedly expressed interest in Irabu, 27, a considerable talent whose fastball has been clocked at 100 mph.
Outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds is among those players being dangled to San Diego, but he wouldn't fill an immediate San Diego need. The Padres would need a starting pitcher to assume Irabu's place in their rotation; the Orioles could offer Shawn Boskie or Scott Kamieniecki, and depending on how much they covet Irabu, they might even consider parting with Scott Erickson.
The Padres need a left-handed reliever, and during the winter, they wanted to sign Jesse Orosco, who lives in San Diego during the off-season. Arthur Rhodes, too, would fit into the Padres' bullpen nicely. The Orioles also could offer one of their right-handed pitching prospects -- Nerio Rodriguez, Sidney Ponson or Chris Fussell.
San Diego has a surplus of starting outfielders with no place for future Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson to play and may want Henderson to be included in any deal. The Orioles could conceivably use Henderson as a designated hitter and bat him second in the lineup between Brady Anderson and Roberto Alomar.
General manager Pat Gillick downplayed the Orioles' interest a few days ago -- he often is evasive when discussing possible acquisitions with reporters -- but he acknowledged yesterday that the situation has changed. "We're discussing it again," he said.
Padres officials are expected to weigh their offers today and tomorrow and then make a decision. Once they pick the best deal, they'll presumably give the team with the top offer permission to negotiate with Irabu's agent, which may be a daunting task.
Dom Nomura, the agent, continues to say Irabu will only pitch for the Yankees, and his rhetoric has grown more and more harsh as the days pass. Nomura suggested Friday to the Associated Press that the Padres are holding Irabu's rights hostage.
"One thing I know is that they are holding his rights in an internment camp," said Nomura of the Padres. "It is an internment camp to restrict him from playing where he wants. Is it because he's Japanese? What if it was a player from America?"
Padres president Larry Lucchino said, "I wouldn't even dignify that comment with a response."
The Red Sox reportedly are ready to swap shortstop John Valentin for Irabu, Seattle could offer pitcher Scott Sanders and others. The Mets' Bobby Valentine managed Irabu in Japan, and he has glowingly praised the pitcher. However, with so many of their young prospects injured, the Mets might have trouble mustering enough to get a deal done.
But several baseball officials believe the Padres prefer to deal Irabu to one of the Yankees' direct competitors -- the cross-town Mets, the Orioles, the Red Sox -- as retribution for the way the Yankees have handled this situation.
The Padres acquired the rights to negotiate with Irabu from Chiba Lotte, a team from Japan, and penciled him into their rotation. But the Yankees began to send signals they were willing to pay Irabu much more money. Though baseball's executive council reiterated Feb. 27 that Irabu effectively belongs to San Diego, the Padres believe the Yankees' dalliance has sabotaged their relationship with the pitcher.
Exhibition opponent: Montreal Expos
Site: West Palm Beach, Fla.
Time: 1: 05 p.m.
Radio: WBAL (1090 AM)
I= Starters: Orioles' Rocky Coppinger vs. Expos' Matt Wagner
Pub Date: 3/09/97