Bye-bye Brady: O's waive Anderson

14-year Oriole let go

roster deadline nears

November 17, 2001|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

Confronted by a roster crush providing no room for sentiment or salary considerations, the Orioles officially severed their ties to outfielder Brady Anderson yesterday by placing him on waivers for the purpose of giving him his unconditional release.

The move closely followed Tuesday's confirmation by vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift that the club would either trade or release the three-time All-Star before firming up its 40-man roster by next Tuesday's deadline. By doing so, the Orioles assume Anderson's $4 million salary for 2002, the final installment of a five-year, $31 million deal he signed after the 1997 season.

"It's a problem everybody in baseball knew we had," said Thrift, who got permission from Anderson's agents last Monday to pursue a trade but found no takers. "You don't like to forfeit money but at the same time you're trying to improve the quality of the team."

Anderson, who turns 38 in January, is coming off his most frustrating season, hitting .202 with eight home runs and 45 RBIs in 131 games. He homered only twice after the All-Star break while experiencing an erosion of playing time and losing his role as leadoff hitter.

The season contrasted a 14-year association with the Orioles in which Anderson set the club record for stolen bases while ranking among the top five in hits (1,614), runs (1,044), doubles (329), home runs (209) and total bases (2,698). Anderson set an Orioles season record with 53 steals in 1992 and 50 home runs in 1996.

Barry Bonds joined him this year as major-leaguers who have hit 50 home runs and stolen 50 bases in separate seasons.

Anderson's power helped redefine the leadoff role. His 44 home runs leading off a game are second only to Rickey Henderson's 79.

Anderson could not be reached for comment.

Anderson's lead agent, Jeff Borris, voiced surprise that the club would release his client while still owing him $4 million. He also questioned its evaluation of Anderson's abilities.

"Unless someone in the organization feels he is unhealthy or his skills are declining - which definitely isn't the case - I think Brady is still worth his weight in gold," Borris said. "He is still capable of having a Brady Anderson kind of year. I think it's Brady's turn to prove them wrong. ...

"It's unfortunate that the team has put itself in a position where it has got to do something like this. It's the end of an era," Borris said.

Thrift said the Orioles found no joy in the decision, either. "This is a very difficult thing for us because there is no question that Brady has epitomized what being an Oriole is all about," he said. "He has given us 100 percent every day and supported what we're trying to do with this team on the field.

"I personally appreciate the support he has given us and feel confident he will continue his baseball career elsewhere. We just felt the direction we're going in did not guarantee a position for Brady on next year's team, and to bring him back to compete for a spot would be unfair to him."

Thrift described yesterday's move as an "organizational decision" that had been revisited several times among the front office, manager Mike Hargrove and majority owner Peter Angelos. A combination of Anderson's declining performance, an uncomfortable roster situation and the organization's desire to stock a younger clubhouse proved persuasive.

Said Thrift: "We thought about this for some time knowing what we'd be confronted with as far as roster problems. It didn't go away. We still have the same problem."

An expected flurry of activity began for the Orioles yesterday when they also traded minor-league third baseman Ivanon Coffie to the Chicago Cubs for a player to be named and outrighted right-handed pitchers Jay Spurgeon and Leslie Brea to Triple-A Rochester. Several other moves are likely before Tuesday's deadline, including the possibility of a trade packaging several players and the release of others from last year's team.

Teams must submit their 40-man roster to the commissioner's office by Tuesday; however, none may confront the complicated set of circumstances facing the Orioles.

A rash of serious injuries dating to last spring training caused the Orioles to place seven players on the 60-day disabled list. Pitchers Matt Riley, Scott Erickson, Pat Hentgen and Josh Towers along with shortstop Mike Bordick, third baseman Mike Kinkade and outfielder Albert Belle weren't counted against the 40-man limit during the season but must be activated before Tuesday. The punishing rule applies to Belle and Hentgen, both of whom may not play again for the Orioles.

Belle suffers from a career-ending degenerative hip condition and Hentgen underwent a ligament transplant --in August.

Because Belle's $65 million contract runs through 2003, he won't formally retire. Likewise, the Orioles can't release him to collect the insured portion of his contract.

"There's nothing we can do," said Thrift, citing union opposition to outrighting a player on a multi-year contract.

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