Orioles GM decision is 'imminent' Wren appears choice, but slow pace of talks has Marlins boiling

They may revoke permission

O's free agents hear little, await GM consult

October 23, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

Having missed a self-imposed deadline for naming Pat Gillick's successor as general manager, the Orioles now believe an announcement is "imminent," according to sources familiar with the process.

Florida Marlins assistant general manager Frank Wren appears to be the front-runner after two rounds of interviews and the elimination of Cincinnati Reds general manager Jim Bowden and Cleveland Indians assistant GM Dan O'Dowd from consideration. Wren, en route from San Diego yesterday, could not be reached for comment.

As late as yesterday afternoon Orioles majority owner Peter Angelos continued to make inquiries on the candidates -- Wren, Atlanta Braves assistant general manager Dean Taylor and Chicago White Sox assistant GM Dan Evans. Today represents Day 43 of a ponderous search that chief operating officer Joe Foss repeatedly assured would be completed by the end of the World Series. Candidates were told after a second round of interviews a verdict was possible by early last week.

The Orioles need to quicken their pace if Wren is indeed their man. Marlins management has grown so impatient with the Orioles' deliberations that they are considering revoking permission for Wren's involvement.

"Their timetable isn't necessarily our timetable," said a Marlins official.

Angelos and Foss did not return repeated phone calls yesterday as part of a media blackout.

Until recently, the blackout apparently also extended to player agents eager to learn the club's thinking regarding nine potential free agents. Though Foss and Angelos spoke with several yesterday regarding a crush of eligible free agents, one agent complained of leaving several messages that went unanswered in recent weeks.

By delaying a hiring, the Orioles now face the task of installing their general manager while trying to avert a mass defection via free agency. Yesterday was the first of 15 days eligible free agents may file.

Eight Orioles, including first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, left fielder B. J. Surhoff, right fielder Eric Davis and second baseman Roberto Alomar, may become true free agents. A ninth, pitcher Juan Guzman, has the right during the filing period to demand a trade before March 15 because he was dealt by Toronto during a multi-year contract. If the Orioles do not satisfy his demand, Guzman could become a free agent after the March deadline.

Guzman's agent, Tony Attanasio, said a decision will be made later in the filing period.

"We've made it clear to the Orioles that Juan wants to remain in Baltimore beyond next season," Attanasio said. "With guys like [Mike] Mussina, [Scott] Erickson, [Sidney] Ponson and Juan, they have a solid rotation. And we know that despite any temporary uncertainty, this isn't going to become a Florida Marlins situation. Peter Angelos will surround pitching with solid position players."

Palmeiro said: "I'm not sure what they're thinking. I'm not sure why they waited [to make a call]. I'm not sure what my chances are of coming back."

The club extended a three-year, $27 million offer to Palmeiro more than two months ago. Palmeiro, a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger winner, is seeking a five-year contract worth about $50 million.

Davis and the club remain apart on a two-year deal, and Surhoff's request for a three-year, $13.5 million package is roughly $500,000 above the team's latest offer. Though publicly hopeful of returning for a fourth season in Baltimore, Alomar has told associates he will likely land in Cleveland or Atlanta.

Irked by the glacial pace of negotiations, Palmeiro and Davis may now be reluctant to sign before Nov. 7, when they may receive offers from all teams.

"At this point, it would be a lot smarter for me to wait," said Palmeiro. "There's nothing to decide, nothing to look at, nothing to do except wait. I've proven myself. I went out and had a good year. What else is there?"

Thinking that a general manager may be in place before next week, several potential free agents postponed filing yesterday. Their hope is to have a conversation with the next GM before finalizing an approach.

Pub Date: 10/23/98

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