Anderson won't come at bargain

November 19, 1997|By KEN ROSENTHAL

The Orioles won't miss Esteban Yan, Dave Dellucci and Aaron Ledesma. They might not even miss Al Leiter, a pitcher they wanted to acquire in a trade.

But Brady Anderson?

They're going to miss him badly, and they'll deserve most of the blame when he's gone.

Brace yourself, because it's likely to happen now that the Atlanta Braves have unloaded Fred McGriff's salary to the expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

The Braves are expected to offer Anderson a three-year package worth at least $21 million, expected to anoint him as the replacement for Kenny Lofton.

The Orioles?

They're not even going to respond.

They're going to blame the market. They're going to say that Anderson isn't worth the money. They're going to portray him as unreasonable.

They might be right on every count.

But no one wants to hear it, not after losing Jon Miller, not after losing Davey Johnson.

Anderson, 33, is the Orioles' most popular player after Cal Ripken, an All-Star center fielder, a gamer who made his name in Baltimore.

He asked for a contract extension after the 1995 season. He asked for one after the '96 season. But the Orioles waited and waited, and now look where they are.

Anderson said he was willing to accept significantly less money to stay in Baltimore, but his situation changed the moment he became a free agent.

If shortstop Jay Bell is worth $6.8 million per season, then what is Anderson's true market value?

Sorry, inappropriate question.

The Orioles don't want to play that game.

The Orioles want to play by their own rules.

It worked with Mike Mussina, and the ace right-hander looks even more noble today for signing a deal so modest, it drew criticism from other players.

For whatever reason, Anderson is less willing than Mussina to sacrifice millions to remain in Baltimore.

Then again, he's the one who waited patiently while the Orioles negotiated with Ripken and Mussina.

He's the one who everyone thought would be the easiest to sign.

And he's the one who played his tail off all season, never once moaning about his uncertain status.

Anderson might not be a $7 million player. But who's going to replace him?

The Orioles likely will make a run at Lofton, but his act grew tired in both Cleveland and Atlanta, and expansion Arizona didn't even want him.

Lofton, 30, is four years younger than Anderson, and maybe the Orioles can get him at a discount rate.

Still, if they don't want to pay Anderson, why would they even consider giving a high-priced deal to an outsider like Lofton?

The outlook is not good. Not good at all.

Even if the Orioles keep Randy Myers, they're almost certain to regress if they lose Anderson on top of manager Davey Johnson.

The Red Sox traded for Pedro Martinez last night. The Yankees are trying to land Randy Johnson. The Blue Jays are going to do something.

The Orioles?

They couldn't even acquire Leiter.

It served them right, seeing as how owner Peter Angelos' major concern apparently was making sure his front office protected first baseman Rafael Palmeiro.

Judging from the draft, neither Arizona nor Tampa Bay would have selected a $6 million first baseman entering the final year of his contract.

But Angelos apparently failed to grasp that subtlety, and it might have cost his front office a chance to pry Leiter away from the Florida Marlins.

This one might not even rank among the owner's top 10 power plays. Still, meddling is meddling, and Angelos' interference was clearly unwarranted.

General manager Pat Gillick said last night that he was set to trade Yan for Leiter, but the deal collapsed when Tampa Bay took Yan with the 18th overall pick.

The question is whether Yan would have been added to the Orioles' 15-man protected list if Angelos hadn't ordered the front office to include Palmeiro.

"I can't say that," Gillick said. "I would say he was very high on our list, though."

Double-A right-hander Julio Moreno might have been the next to be added, but the entire Orioles' contingent agreed yesterday morning that Yan probably would be the first player they lost.

"There wasn't much you could do," Gillick said. "They [the Marlins] didn't indicate which way they wanted to go until we had our 15 in."

The Orioles will survive without Yan, a 22-year-old right-hander who blossomed as a starter at Rochester last season.

They will survive without Leiter, a 32-year-old left-hander who is coming off a disappointing season and knee surgery.

And they will survive without Dellucci and Ledesma, two lunch-pail players who had their moments last season.

But how will they survive without Brady Anderson?

That's the question at hand.

The most disturbing question of all.

Pub Date: 11/19/97

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