Rockies discussed Belle deal

Bichette, Kile were offered to O's before outfielder went to Reds

`We're not peddling Belle'

Teams disagree on who made 1st contact

November 10, 1999|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

DANA POINT, Calif. -- Orioles officials continued to explore possible player moves at the general managers' meetings yesterday at the scenic Ritz-Carlton Hotel, but the most intriguing trade talks involving the club may have taken place during the World Series.

Colorado Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd confirmed that the clubs talked about possible trade combinations involving controversial Orioles superstar Albert Belle and Rockies stars Dante Bichette and Darryl Kile, but could not agree on a suitable package.

"We had some discussions at the World Series about a number of players, including Albert Belle," O'Dowd said. "It just never fit. We struggled with the dollars. The length of contract and the dollars made it difficult."

An Orioles official confirmed the talks -- and said that there was discussion of a trade that would have sent both Bichette and Kile to the Orioles if a deal could be worked out to waive Belle's no-trade clause -- but stressed that the overture was made by the Rockies and rejected by the Orioles because of concerns about Kile's high salary and limited effectiveness the past couple of years.

"We are not trying to peddle Albert Belle," said the Orioles official, who asked not to be identified. "We think that Albert is going to have a great year for us next year."

Rockies officials contend that the contact came from the other direction, but it quickly became academic when they traded Bichette to the Cincinnati Reds for former Orioles outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds and reliever Stan Belinda on Oct. 30.

The talks apparently did not progress very far, because both sides found the financial implications unattractive. Belle, approaching the second year of a five-year, $65 million contract, has an ironclad no-trade clause through 2001, so he could demand compensation from either club to approve a deal.

The Orioles would have assumed two contracts worth $14.5 million per year, or $1.5 million per year more than Belle's average salary, of which $3 million per year is deferred.

"It was a typical fishing expedition," said O'Dowd. "Albert wasn't the only player we talked about."

The Orioles, according to a club source, might have shown more interest if not for the nagging questions about Kile's effectiveness. The veteran right-hander has one year remaining on his contract at $8 million, but has been a sub-.500 pitcher (21-30) his first two years pitching at altitude.

Rockies officials apparently had the predictable reservations about Belle, whose volatile personality has made him one of baseball's most notorious bad boys, but he might have had a chance to challenge Mark McGwire's single-season home run record hitting in the thin air of the Mile High City.

"There are a lot of people who like Albert Belle," said Orioles director of player personnel Syd Thrift. " But we are not going to trade Albert Belle."

The focus of the GM meetings, however, has been on another major offensive star. The Seattle Mariners continue to field offers for outfielder Ken Griffey, who has asked the club to trade him to a club within reasonable travel distance of his Orlando, Fla., home, but general manager Pat Gillick gave no indication that a deal is imminent.

"We're just continuing to talk, that's all," Gillick said. "We've got a number of clubs we're talking to, we're trying to sort through discussions. There's no timetable on this. When it happens, it will happen. It could be today, it could be tomorrow, it could be Thursday, it could be a month from now."

There has been speculation that Griffey will end up with either the Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds or Houston Astros, but at least seven other teams -- including the Orioles -- reportedly have expressed interest.

The Orioles probably do not have the wherewithal to acquire Griffey without decimating the starting rotation or endangering the club's improving minor-league depth. It seems more likely that they will wait until next winter and make a play for Mariners shortstop Alex Rodriguez if he becomes available as a free agent.

In the meantime, Thrift is scouring the meetings for pitching help -- he met with the Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals, San Diego Padres and Cleveland Indians yesterday -- though the Orioles probably will have to wade back into the free-agent market to deepen the starting rotation and upgrade the bullpen.

The blockbuster deal that sent outfielder Shawn Green from the Toronto Blue Jays to the Dodgers for disgruntled Raul Mondesi remains the only trade consummated at the meetings, but there were indications yesterday that the Blue Jays may soon move outfielder Carlos Delgado, who hit 44 home runs and had 134 RBIs last year. Talks on a contract extension apparently have broken down.

"Our priority always was to try and sign him," Blue Jays GM Gord Ash said. "Now, we have to look at other alternatives."

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