Sele throws curve, join Mariners

Unwilling to rework O's deal, pitcher takes Seattle's 2 years, $15M

`Wear, tear' alarms Angelos

Gillick, others say 18-game victor healthy

January 11, 2000|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

All but announced as the fifth rung of the Orioles' starting rotation last Friday, free-agent pitcher Aaron Sele yesterday rejected a demand by the team's majority owner, Peter Angelos, to rework a four-year, $29 million offer and instead signed a two-year, $15 million deal with the Seattle Mariners.

The move, according to club sources, was prompted by organizational concerns over the stability of Sele's right shoulder and the 18-game winner's recent medical history with the Texas Rangers. Five weeks before spring training, the reversal again leaves the Orioles without a fifth starting pitcher, this time with only the remnants of a thin free-agent market still available.

"It was," Mariners general manager Pat Gillick said last night, "like a star falling out of the sky."

Orioles officials maintained the silence mandated ever since Angelos presented Sele with an offer sheet on Thursday night. Neither Angelos nor his son, executive vice president John Angelos, returned phone calls last night. Vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift could not be reached for comment on the Eastern Shore.

The turnabout took place two days after Angelos first discussed a modified deal with Sele's agents, Adam Katz and Tom Reich. The offer sheet Sele accepted included $8 million deferred but the $7.25 million average yearly salary would have been the highest ever awarded an Orioles pitcher. The club had prepared a release and tentatively scheduled a news conference for Friday afternoon before complications arose.

After leaving Baltimore on Friday, Sele was examined in Los Angeles by Dodgers and Anaheim Angels orthopedic doctor Lewis Yocum. Katz presented Gillick with the findings. "Once I heard [about Orioles orthopedic doctor Michael Jacobs' reservations], I wanted to have our own fresh medicals from our people. We're very confident in our medicals," Katz said.

An Orioles official said last night that Jacobs' examination of Sele did not discover any tear of the pitcher's rotator cuff. However, Angelos became alarmed over "moderate wear and tear" of the pitcher's right shoulder that potentially could worsen by the third or fourth year of the proposed deal. Angelos' reaction was to attempt to restructure the deal by replacing the fourth guaranteed season with a vesting option.

Angelos spoke with Katz's partner, Tom Reich, yesterday afternoon. Following their conversation, Katz contacted Gillick and the Mariners put together their two-year offer.

"I think this is a business where timing is very important. You only have a small window," said Gillick. "Something like this doesn't come down the road very often. It gives you a chance to jump into a two-year deal with someone who won 18 games last year. Those who hesitate are lost. You have to move forward."

Gillick added, "There are no medical issues."

Sele, 29, showed no sign of wear while compiling an 18-9 record, 4.79 ERA and 205 innings last season during the Rangers' AL West title run. Part of his appeal was his ability to construct back-to-back 200-inning seasons after he was acquired from the Boston Red Sox in a five-player trade in November 1997. Sele never pitched more than 157 1/3 innings in four major-league seasons prior to his arrival in Arlington but missed only one start -- that due to the flu -- in two seasons with the Rangers.

Thrift, who sources say prodded Angelos to pursue Sele, thought the right-hander's ground-ball tendencies were a perfect fit for claustrophobic Camden Yards and projected him as either their No. 3 or No. 4 starter before or behind Sidney Ponson.

Gillick said he had no idea about the dimensions of the Orioles' modified offer. The former Orioles GM and Katz discussed a framework including an option for 2002 and 2003 but eventually settled on two guaranteed years.

"We just made a proposal. We were shooting in the dark trying to work through it," Gillick said.

The new contract calls for a $1 million signing bonus and annual salaries of $7 million, with none of the money deferred.

Katz downplayed any friction between Angelos and himself, saying there will be no grievance and describing the Orioles owner as "understanding and a gentleman about the whole process."

"They conducted themselves with honor and dignity," added Katz. "There was no bad blood nor bad communication."

Still, the last five days have reinforced a perception of the Orioles being run by whim. Team officials from the Rangers and Tampa Bay Devil Rays said yesterday that Sele's medical history did not represent a "red flag" and they were comfortable offering him four years. The Orioles were forwarded Sele's medical history by the Rangers but apparently did not examine it until after he accepted their offer sheet Thursday night.

Rangers general manager Doug Melvin said yesterday, "I don't see any reason why he would be hurt" and cited the club's four-year, $28 million offer to retain him as evidence of his conviction.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.