O's, Reds near Hammonds- Greene deal 3rd baseman/outfielder would give Orioles lefty bat, IF reserve

August 09, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

MINNEAPOLIS -- In a move with potentially far-reaching implications, the Orioles apparently are poised to trade outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds to the Cincinnati Reds in return for third baseman/outfielder Willie Greene.

The move could be made as soon as today, according to sources familiar with talks between the Orioles front office and Reds general manager Jim Bowden. Under discussion for several days, the deal was initially proposed by the Orioles, who have grown impatient with Hammonds' uncertain availability due a series of injuries.

Hammonds, who was also made available before the July 31 waiver deadline, did not play in last night's game.

"I don't know if it will happen [today], but it has been discussed," acknowledged an Orioles official last night.

The trade could best be described as a swap of organizational enigmas. The Orioles made an investment in Hammonds, 27, this spring by signing him to a three-year, $7.1 million contract. However, Hammonds endured a lengthy stay on the disabled list due to a herniated disk and has received only 26 at-bats since June 3. The contract includes a $500,000 buyout if Hammonds is traded.

Hammonds, who also served extensive time on the DL in 1993 (his rookie season) through 1996, suggested a breakthrough last year when he hit 21 home runs and drove in 55 runs in 397 at-bats. The disk condition has prevented him from following through on last season's promise, however.

For the short term, Greene, 26, would give manager Ray Miller an additional left-handed bat on the bench. Currently, the Orioles have only one left-handed bat in reserve when facing a right-handed starter. Last night, Rich Becker was the only left-hander not in the lineup against Minnesota's Brad Radke. A third baseman before this season, Greene also would provide the Orioles a second reserve infielder, a commodity they have lacked most of this season.

Long term, Greene's presence suggests organizational preparation for an end to Cal Ripken's consecutive-games streak.

Ripken, who started his 2,593rd consecutive game last night, has become the focus of greater scrutiny due to lagging production.

While Greene represents an option, some within the organization caution that his acquisition does not represent an imminent challenge to Ripken's record. "We don't need to hang that on this kid now," said a club source. "You look at his numbers and they aren't decidedly better than Cal's. It's just a move that could make us better."

Greene, arbitration-eligible next winter, entered last night hitting with 14 home runs and 48 RBIs. Having lost his job at third base early this season, he has platooned in right field with Reggie Sanders, playing primarily against right-handed pitching. Greene had 80 strikeouts in 351 at-bats. Ripken entered last night hitting .270 with nine home runs and 48 RBIs in 422 at-bats.

Greene is not known as a clutch hitter but is versatile. The Orioles' other alternatives at third base are utility infielder Jeff Reboulet, left fielder B. J. Surhoff or minor-leaguer Willis Otanez. Outside alternatives under consideration don't stop with Greene. The Orioles have considered Chicago White Sox third baseman and pending free agent Robin Ventura as a potential off-season target.

By the numbers

A comparison of Jeffrey Hammonds' and Willie Greene's stats the past three seasons:

1996 6P ... G .... Avg .... AB ... 2B ... 3B ... HR ... RBI

H ... 71 ... .226 ... 248 .. 10 ... 1 .... 9 .... 27

G ... 115 .. .244 ... 287 .. 5 .... 5 .... 19 ... 63

1997

P ... G .... Avg. .... AB ... 2B ... 3B ... HR ... RBI

H ... 118 .. .264 .... 397 .. 19 ... 3 .... 21 ... 55

G ... 151 .. .253 .... 495 .. 22 ... 1 .... 26 ... 91

1998

P ... G .... Avg. .... AB ... 2B ... 3B ... HR ... RBI

H ... 62 ... .269 .... 167 .. 12 ... 1 .... 6 .... 28

G ... 109 .. .268 .... 351 .. 16 ... 1 .... 14 ... 48

Pub Date: 8/09/98

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