The Orioles need a left-handed hitter. Darren Daulton is a left-handed hitter. And the Philadelphia Phillies finally are ready to pick up a sizable chunk of his $5 million salary to trade him.
Philadelphia general manager Lee Thomas called the Orioles' Pat Gillick with that news yesterday, adding that he is now prepared to shop Daulton to other clubs if the Orioles aren't interested.
Well, the Orioles are interested, have been since spring training. They've simply been waiting the Phillies out, believing that owner Bill Giles would relent and make the trade more financially enticing.
Evidently, the time is now, judging by Thomas' suddenly aggressive approach. If the Orioles want Daulton, they can have him -- perhaps for outfielder Tony Tarasco.
They should make that deal, but only if the Phillies pay virtually all of Daulton's salary. The Orioles are playing terrific baseball, excluding last night's 7-2 loss to Anaheim. There's simply no reason for them to rush into this deal.
Daulton, 35, is only a .243 career hitter. He has had nine knee operations. If the Orioles wait, a more versatile, less expensive left-handed hitter might become available.
Heck, with so many of their hitters fighting injuries, it might not be prudent to add a one-dimensional slugger -- especially when he's carrying such a hefty price tag.
The Phillies already have paid nearly $1 million of Daulton's salary, and they apparently are willing to assume half of the rest. Thus, he would cost his new club approximately $2 million -- plus a $500,000 buyout next season.
That's too high, especially with the Orioles facing luxury-tax concerns. The Phillies probably won't find another taker at that price. Gillick should make them sweat, hold out for the best possible deal.
Make no mistake, Daulton would help.
Manager Davey Johnson could use him as a left-handed DH and left-handed hitter off the bench. Daulton also would add another veteran presence to a clubhouse that has been bolstered by the additions of Eric Davis, Mike Bordick and Jimmy Key.
The Phillies are playing him in right field, and he's batting .299 with two homers, three doubles, two triples and nine RBIs in 67 at-bats. His left-handed power might be ideally suited for the short right-field porch at Camden Yards.
The Orioles own the best record in the American League, they're 13-6 against right-handed starters and they're batting .294 as a team. But Johnson has acknowledged their need for more left-handed hitting at various points this season.
A trade to the Orioles probably would rejuvenate Daulton. It also would reunite him with Pete Incaviglia, his teammate with the 1993 NL champion Phillies.
"He's a hard-nosed guy. All his values are in the right place; he wants to win," Incaviglia said. "He's a really good guy, a leader-type. I think he'd be good. I don't see any problem. A guy like that is hard to find."
Incaviglia, however, would get fewer at-bats in a DH platoon with Daulton. He's thriving in a full-time role, with four homers in his past seven games. Still, he's a career .234 hitter against right-handed pitching.
"All I can do is go out and do my job the best I can," said Incaviglia, whose 10-game hitting streak ended last night. "I've proven to people I can play. I'm not really concerned. Whatever happens, happens.
"I don't have any problem with them picking up 'Dutch,' not at all," Incaviglia said, adopting his usual team-first approach. "It's more offense for us."
Incaviglia, remember, came to the Orioles when they needed more right-handed power last season -- Gillick acquired him from the Phillies with Todd Zeile on Aug. 29, and the Orioles went on to make the playoffs for the first time in 13 years.
Daulton could provide the same type of offensive lift, giving the Orioles another power threat to make their lineup more comparable with Cleveland's and Seattle's.
"I think Daulton wants to come here," assistant general manager Kevin Malone said early yesterday. "We like Daulton, but right now there's nothing definitely hot.
"We had told them if they're willing to move 'em to let us know. We always thought it was just a matter of time. I won't deny we have interest. It depends on what price."
Thomas apparently informed Gillick of the change in the Phillies' position later in the day. Gilllick declined to comment last night, but an Orioles scout has been following the Phillies for the past 10 days.
The Phillies (9-20) are already 12 1/2 games back in the NL East. They also want to dump Gregg Jefferies, and they're apparently willing to take the volatile Tony Phillips from the Chicago White Sox in return.
Tarasco, 26, asked the Orioles to trade him after they sent him to Triple-A Rochester on April 7. He is the team's sixth outfielder, behind Davis, Brady Anderson, B. J. Surhoff and the injured Jeffrey Hammonds and Jerome Walton.
Anderson is close to signing a contract extension. Surhoff is signed through 1998, and the club holds an option on Davis for 1998. Thus, Tarasco will remain little more than a bench player the next two seasons.
He won't help the Orioles as much as Daulton, but again, there's no reason for Gillick to jump at this trade. If the Phillies are so eager to trade Darren Daulton, then make them pay.
Pub Date: 5/06/97