Orioles re-sign Orosco, Reboulet Reliever, utility man extended through 2000

August 21, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

While negotiations drag with higher-priced talent, the Orioles continued to solidify their roster for next season and beyond by signing left-handed reliever Jesse Orosco and utility infielder Jeff Reboulet to contracts extending through 2000.

"Instead of waiting until the end when we might have to deal with 10, 11 or 12 guys, why not get it done if the time's right?" said assistant general manager Kevin Malone. "Sometimes the process isn't as difficult as it is with other [more visible] guys. We know what their value is. Why wait for the market to escalate further?"

Signing Reboulet represents important insurance should second baseman Roberto Alomar defect via free agency after this season. Though Reboulet is not projected as a potential starter, he does provide the same versatility that long made a player such as Mark Lemke a mainstay with championship Atlanta Braves teams.

Three weeks ago the Orioles seriously contemplated trading Orosco but pulled him from the market after receiving several unappealing proposals. Orosco lobbied manager Ray Miller and Malone to remain in Baltimore. The left-hander said a trade to an unfavorable market could have led him to prematurely end a long career.

"I wasn't looking forward to going somewhere where I might not have been happy," Orosco said. "I'm pretty happy here."

"He was the most sought-after guy we had before the deadline because he's a specialist," Malone said.

The Orioles have been happy with Orosco given that he has made 258 appearances in fewer than four seasons in Baltimore. At 41, he is on pace for a second consecutive 70-game season, and he has not gone on the disabled list during an 18-year career.

Under Davey Johnson and Miller, Orosco's role has been condensed to facing left-handed hitters. Until Wednesday night, Orosco hadn't allowed two runs in a game since June 12. He also had allowed runs in just one of 20 outings since the All-Star break.

Orosco already has made history this season, becoming the sixth pitcher to make 1,000 career appearances and the fourth to pitch 1,000 games in relief.

Orosco is just 42 shy of Kent Tekulve's career record of 1,050 relief appearances and only 62 games behind Hoyt Wilhelm's record of 1,070 games pitched. Yesterday's deal virtually assures he will shatter both marks as an Oriole.

On Tuesday, Orosco made his 55th appearance this season, vesting his contract for 1999. He will earn an $800,000 base salary this year and needs only four more games to reach $300,000 in appearance incentives.

Next season provides Orosco a duplicate deal to this season. In 2000, he will earn a $1.1 million base plus a possible $300,000 in incentives. If he appears in 55 games or the Orioles agree to pick up his option for 2001, Orosco will earn a $1.3 million base plus a possible $300,000 in incentives.

The move was somewhat surprising given Orosco's age and contract status. With his contract vested for next season, the Orioles weren't obligated to deal with him until after 1999.

"I don't think his age is a factor," Malone said. "He's never been on the DL. We felt this guy was the exception to the age rule. He keeps getting better. He pitches better than most 20- or 30-year olds. He's a unique guy."

Despite a consistent career highlighted by his closer's role with the 1986 World Series champion New York Mets, Orosco has never earned more than a $1 million base salary.

"He's an invaluable guy," said manager Ray Miller. "You look at his work ethic and what he's done for this team he's an example."

Should the Orioles assume the option year of Orosco's new deal, he would pitch at 44, becoming the oldest player in club history. Rick Dempsey (43) holds the distinction. Dizzy Trout (42) is the oldest pitcher in club history.

"This is where I wanted to play and I guess they were thinking along the same lines," Orosco said. "I've given them several good years and they apparently feel I can give them several more. I plan to."

Reboulet, 34, is guaranteed $1.1 million over the next two seasons -- $525,000 in 1999 and $575,000 in 2000.

"Security is a bigger issue for a utility guy. You're more prone to take length of contract over more money for one year. That's fairly standard," Reboulet said.

Reboulet's contract can be augmented by numerous appearance incentives. He is earning $450,000 this season plus incremental $25,000 bonuses based upon plate appearances. Future incentives are similarly structured with a maximum $250,000 possible each season.

It is the second time in Reboulet's seven-year career that the role player has enjoyed a guaranteed two-year deal.

Reboulet, 34, is batting .270 with one home run and eight RBIs in 115 at-bats over 64 games. His most important contributions the past two seasons have come with Alomar on the disabled list with ankle, groin and finger injuries.

Reboulet made 13 of his 30 starts this season from July 19-Aug. 2 while Alomar recovered from a dislocated pinkie, and he batted .269 during the span.

"Reboulet is worth his weight in gold," Miller said. "He always keeps himself ready to play and will fill in anywhere you need him. He's also able to contribute offensively."

The Orioles still must deal with eight pending free agents -- Roberto Alomar, Harold Baines, Eric Davis, Jimmy Key, Alan Mills, Doug Drabek, Rafael Palmeiro and B. J. Surhoff. Though Key's health makes him doubtful to return, the club has had preliminary talks with the others, offering Surhoff and Palmeiro three-year contracts.

Pub Date: 8/21/98

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