BOSTON - The Orioles resuscitated then abruptly quashed a nine-player mega-trade with Philadelphia Phillies third baseman Scott Rolen as its keystone yesterday when Orioles majority owner Peter Angelos vetoed a tentative deal because of the anticipated cost of signing Rolen to a lengthy contract extension.
"There was a deal where he had agreed on the players, but there were other factors," said Phillies vice president of public relations Larry Shenk.
Angelos' abrupt rejection of the trade came after vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift and Phillies general manager Ed Wade tweaked a deal rejected by the Orioles on Wednesday afternoon. Instead of taking the next step - an intense negotiating session with Rolen on a deal that might have made him an Oriole for the remainder of his career - the Orioles may instead leave Boston today virtually unchanged from Sunday, when the winter meetings opened.
"We are on our way home," said Wade. "We explored a few things but didn't get it finalized. At this juncture, it's fairly apparent Scott will be our third baseman, which is not the worst thing that can happen."
Rolen is regarded by many as the game's premier third baseman. Last season, he had 25 home runs, 16 stolen bases, 107 RBIs, and a .508 career slugging percentage. Rolen has twice driven in at least 100 runs in five full major-league seasons. Eligible for free agency after next season, his unwillingness to discuss a contract extension with the Phillies made him available for trade. Agreeing on personnel was the first step in a process that would have had the Orioles receive 48 hours to negotiate with Rolen.
Thrift said he never asked for permission from the Phillies to discuss an extension with Rolen but added such an opportunity would have been essential to a trade.
Thrift instead phoned Angelos after the teams agreed on the players involved. Angelos asked Thrift what he thought it would take to sign Rolen. Thrift suggested it would take at least a 10-year, $150 million bid.
"When I called the owner and told him that, he said forget it," Thrift said.
Angelos could not be reached for comment last night.
Before phoning Angelos, sources said Thrift contacted Rolen's agents, Seth and Sam Levinson, to inquire about their client's willingness to discuss an extension. The agents would say only that Rolen would consider it on "a case-by-case basis," according to a source.
The Phillies originally sought a package involving pitchers Sidney Ponson, Buddy Groom, Erik Bedard and Sean Douglass plus utility starter Jeff Conine in return for Rolen, pitcher Chris Brock, infielder Kevin Jordan and a prospect. The deal collapsed because of Thrift's reluctance to sacrifice both Bedard and Douglass, two of the Orioles' most prized pitching prospects.
Thrift yesterday substituted another player for Bedard, while the Phillies' package remained unchanged.
"It was modified," said Thrift.
The teams salvaged something from their extensive talks by agreeing to a minor deal that sent middle reliever John Wasdin to the Phillies for the journeyman Brock. The Orioles had designated Wasdin for assignment last week, meaning they had to either trade him within 10 days or release him. Brock, 31, split time between Philadelphia and Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre in 2001. Having made 19 starts as recently as 1999 for the San Francisco Giants, he was 3-0 with a 4.13 ERA in 24 appearances for the Phillies last season.
The Orioles may be primed for entry into negotiations for free agents Barry Bonds and Johnny Damon as Thrift spoke late yesterday with Scott Boras, the agent for Bonds and Damon, with another conversation scheduled for today.
Rolen, 26, earned $5.5 million last season and remains arbitration-eligible. He is expected to seek $9 million-$10 million in 2002. He already has rejected a six-year, $90 million offer from the Phillies and dismissed another, less formal proposal of $140 million over 10 years.
"I knew based on common sense that we couldn't expect to get a home-town discount. If you use logic, this man is 26 years old and he's accomplished a lot of things. Just use logic," said Thrift.
Thrift said he wasn't certain about the parameters for a possible extension for Rolen when talks began with the Phillies.
"I wasn't really sure where we stood financially," added Thrift. "I knew Mr. Angelos had a lot of interest in Scott Rolen as a player."
The Orioles may find a more workable match with the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers. Thrift met for about 45 minutes yesterday with the Cardinals regarding starting pitcher Dustin Hermanson. The Cardinals seek relief from the pitcher's contract and are asking for infielder Brian Roberts and a minor-league pitcher, believed to be Steve Bechler, in return, according to sources familiar with talks.
Trade interest exists in Rangers outfielder Gabe Kapler, but a deal may be predicated on first obtaining Hermanson. Should Angelos authorize a trade with the Cardinals, Thrift is prepared to deal Ponson to the Rangers for Kapler. Talks may also continue regarding Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Raul Mondesi and Anaheim Angels first baseman Mo Vaughn.
Angelos also has authorized continued negotiations to bring outfielder B.J. Surhoff back to the Orioles via a trade with the Braves.