O's bid hits $26M for Stottlemyre Agent for right-hander calls it 'starting point'

Dodgers sign Mills

O's fifth team in running

Losing Mills may delay any Benitez trade

November 14, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

The Orioles have intensified efforts to bolster their starting rotation by offering free-agent right-hander Todd Stottlemyre a four-year, $26 million contract. While refusing to confirm numbers, Stottlemyre's agent, Tony Attanasio, described the offer as a "good starting point" and anticipates further talks.

General manager Frank Wren made the bid on Thursday. Yesterday, the Orioles suffered their first loss due to free agency when the Los Angeles Dodgers signed right-handed reliever Alan Mills to a three-year, $6.5 million contract, reuniting the middle reliever with former Orioles manager Davey Johnson and assistant general manager Kevin Malone.

Stottlemyre, meanwhile, is interested in the Orioles but has already received at least one more lucrative offer.

"We're not operating under any time frame," Attanasio said. "Todd would like to get it over with as soon as possible, and we're not necessarily waiting for Kevin Brown or Randy Johnson to sign first."

Likewise hoping to move quickly, the Orioles are one of five clubs to have bid for Stottlemyre. They trail at least the Detroit Tigers, who offered a four-year, $28 million package, according to a source familiar with negotiations.

Stottlemyre, 33, is expected to eventually command about $8 million per season, leaving him in a second tier behind Brown and Johnson.

The 10-year veteran was 14-13 last season with a 3.74 ERA in 33 starts for the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers. He pitched 221 2/3 innings, striking out 204 and walking 81. His best season was a 15-8 finish for Toronto in 1991, but he has won 14 games in three of the past four seasons and is 123-110 overall.

Attanasio downplayed any concerns his client had regarding

had about the Orioles' changing pitching coaches. Bruce Kison replaced Mike Flanagan on Thursday after Flanagan opted to return to the Home Team Sports broadcast booth.

"Todd has been exposed to solid pitching coaches his entire career -- Dave Stewart, Dave Duncan, his dad [Yankees pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre]. He knows how to pitch. His attitude is, 'If you see something out of sync, let me know. Otherwise, stay out of the way.' "

Attanasio said he did ask one question on behalf of his client: "I asked them how they were going to score any runs."

With Mills' defection to the National League, the Orioles also must address further bullpen questions, even after signing closer Mike Timlin to a four-year, $16 million deal Thursday.

The Dodgers' bid obliterated the Orioles' three-year, $4.6 million offer, and guaranteed Mills $1.25 million in 1999, $2.25 million in 2000 and $3 million in 2001.

Wren remains confident that he can fix a bullpen that resembled a wasteland last season because of overuse.

"We felt we had gone to the limit and we were comfortable with where we were with Alan," Wren said last night. "There are other guys out there I would feel just as comfortable with. I don't see it having an effect as far as being able to reproduce [Mills'] numbers. What you don't know is whether you can reproduce his character. My understanding is he is a real quality person."

A self-described "adrenaline pitcher," Mills labored mostly in the obscurity of long and middle relief. A health condition that prevents him from taking anti-inflammatory medication prevented him from being considered for the closer role.

Mills was slowed by numerous Mills and sometimes bizarre injuries he sustained in seven seasons in Baltimore. He also was twice suspended for his involvement in on-field altercations, most recently last May during a brawl with the New York Yankees. When healthy, Mills, 32, once won 10 games in relief and possessed a closer-quality assortment. No Orioles reliever was more effective with runners on base and few rivaled his willingness to pitch inside.

Mills thrived under Johnson, making 88 appearances in 1996-97 despite missing two months of the '97 season following a pre-game collision with catcher Lenny Webster. The injury caused a pinched nerve in his left shoulder that left him with residual weakness the entire season.

"I'm excited about being reunited with Kevin Malone and Davey Johnson, who are working hard at putting together a championship team," Mills said. "I know what [Johnson] can do as a manager and he knows what I can do."

Comfortable in 1997 under Ray Miller as a pitching coach, Mills had a different experience under Miller as manager.

When Miller's rotation crumbled early last season, Mills was among the most affected. Even on those days he wasn't imported from the bullpen, Mills usually warmed up. The strain left him exhausted by season's end.

Mills' defection is poorly timed for Wren, who would like to deal Benitez for New York Mets catcher Todd Hundley. Besides Timlin, Benitez is the Orioles' only right-handed reliever under contract. Wren says he may trade for bullpen help. Free-agent alternatives include Mike Fetters, Frank Castillo, Ricky Bones, Heathcliff Slocumb and Mark Portugal.

The Orioles continue to pursue additional offensive production. Besides increasing their contract offer to first baseman Rafael Palmeiro on Thursday, Wren confirmed that the Orioles intend to meet with free-agent outfielder Brian Jordan and his agent, Jim Turner, next week.

Wren will have to check his contingencies after one of his targets, free-agent second baseman Jose Offerman, agreed to a staggering four-year, $26 million deal yesterday with the Boston Red Sox. While Orioles officials dismiss the chance of Roberto Alomar returning -- Alomar is expected to sign a three-year contract with the Cleveland Indians next week -- they now must decide whether to pursue remaining free agent Delino DeShields or commit to prospect Jerry Hairston.

Pub Date: 11/14/98

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