ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Three days of organizational intrigue plus a frustrating relationship with a talented player ended yesterday when the Orioles traded outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds to the Cincinnati Reds for third baseman/outfielder Willie Greene.
A deal that seemed all but certain Saturday night, only to become endangered Sunday, was consummated when the Reds dropped a demand that the Orioles provide cash along with Hammonds. Their concession erased opposition from majority owner Peter Angelos, and a deal was quickly struck. Manager Ray Miller notified Hammonds of the move around 2 p.m.
Hammonds was not available for comment.
A powerful left-handed hitter considered average at best defensively, Greene provides Miller an additional left-handed bat in the near term. More significantly, he fits the organizational profile of a player who may help more in the long term. Capable of playing first base, left field and right field in addition to third, Greene represents insurance should the Orioles fail to re-sign pending free agents such as Rafael Palmeiro, B. J. Surhoff, Harold Baines and Eric Davis. Palmeiro is considered the greatest risk to leave.
"He gives us security at several places," said assistant general manager Kevin Malone. "Willie is a guy who has proven potential. With Jeffrey, we were still waiting."
Believing that security would motivate Hammonds, the Orioles avoided arbitration by signing him Hammonds to a three-year, $7.1 million contract this spring. Hammonds provided flashes of brilliance but played only sporadically due to back, disk and wrist injuries. The Orioles never questioned the injuries of Hammonds, who also served extensive time on the DL in 1993 (his rookie season) through 1996, but privately groused about a low pain threshold that left him chronically "day-to-day."
Reds general manager Jim Bowden attempted to press the Orioles for 1997 first-round draft pick Darnell McDonald but was rebuffed. McDonald represented a $1.95 million investment to the club, which had signed him away from a football scholarship at the University of Texas. Bowden responded by asking the Orioles to pay $1 million along with Hammonds. Angelos thought the bid "larcenous," according to a club source, and immediately rejected the deal.
Bowden finally dropped his monetary demand rather than jeopardize the trade. Like Hammonds, Greene became a frustration to the Reds, who chafed at a player considered difficult to motivate. The organization also had grown weary with Greene's lax work habits. Malone did not dispute that there are concerns over Greene. But he also cited the 26 home runs and 91 RBIs he gave the Reds in 1997. Hammonds' best season also came last year when he hit 21 home runs with 55 RBIs in 397 bats.
"He's a guy I'm sure we'll learn more about once he's here," said Malone.
Greene, 26, batted .270 with 14 home runs and 49 RBIs in 111 games for the Reds this season. He had appeared in 76 games at third base, 28 games in the outfield and two at shortstop.
"I would've liked to have stayed with the Reds, but the organization did what they thought was right. Hopefully, it will work out for us," said Greene, who will be available for tonight's game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Miller said he may start Greene tonight in right field.
Club officials moved immediately to defuse speculation that Greene's arrival portends an end to Cal Ripken's consecutive-games streak. As long as the Orioles remain contenders for the American League wild card, Ripken's place in the lineup will not be debated.
"I don't think it changes anything I do with Cal except it allows me the option to give him a break," said Miller, adding, "As far as Cal's streak, if I listed everything that's been a problem this year, Cal would be about No. 20. It's a pleasure to have a guy who you know is going to be on time, give you everything he's got and make some adjustments.
Greene allows Miller much greater flexibility in manipulating his infield. For most of this season, the Orioles have carried only one spare infielder, Jeff Reboulet, making it risky for Miller to commit to middle-inning substitutions.
"He gives us something we really haven't had all year," said Miller. "He gives us another power bat. It's a positive for us."
Same time last year
In the Orioles' 117th game last year, they lost to the Mariners, 8-3. Here's where the Orioles stood:
Record Standing GA/GB
74-43 .. First .. +3 1/2
Willie Greene file
Pos.: 3B/OF. Age: 26. Height: 5-11. Weight: 192. Bats: Left. Throws: Right.
1997: Had best season of his career, hitting .253 and leading Reds in home runs (26) and RBIs (91). Honored with Ernie Lombardi Award as Cincinnati's team MVP. 1996: Ended first full season in the majors by hitting six home runs in last six games. 1995: Made Reds' Opening Day roster despite batting .161 in spring training.
Pub Date: 8/11/98