Impressed O's prepare Surhoff offer

Deals for big bat on hold, but veteran looks like a go

February 04, 2003|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

With their trade talks going nowhere fast, the Orioles prepared to make a contract offer to free-agent outfielder B.J. Surhoff yesterday, having liked what they saw in his recent workouts at Camden Yards.

Surhoff, who played with the Orioles from 1996 to 2000, has said he'd like to return to the club after spending the past 2 1/2 seasons with the Atlanta Braves. He missed most of last season with a knee injury but appears to be fully recovered.

Orioles executive vice president Jim Beattie and vice president Mike Flanagan discussed the parameters of a deal with Surhoff, and then planned to fax their official offer to Surhoff's agent last night.

Surhoff, 38, is not the big bat the Orioles went into the offseason hoping to acquire, but he is a career .281 hitter who could add veteran leadership to the clubhouse.

The trade front has been quiet, and Beattie said it will probably stay that way for a while.

"At this point, those talks will probably go into spring training," Beattie said. "Most teams say they want to go into camp and see what they have."

Pitchers and catchers report to spring training on Feb. 13, and the Orioles play their first exhibition game on Feb. 27. It could be March before potential trade partners such as the Texas Rangers are ready to act.

The Orioles have been hoping they could sign Surhoff to a minor-league deal to avoid a move on the 40-man roster. Last week, Surhoff told The Sun he preferred a major-league deal.

Beattie declined to reveal the specifics of the Orioles' offer.

The New York Mets and New York Yankees also have had talks about bringing Surhoff into camp, but he still lives in Cockeysville and has said his first choice is the Orioles.

If Surhoff signs with the Orioles, he'll join a long list of outfielders competing for space on the 25-man Opening Day roster. The projected starting outfield is Marty Cordova in left field, Gary Matthews in center and Jay Gibbons in right.

Jeff Conine, Melvin Mora and Chris Richard all can play the outfield, as well. Surhoff can play left field, first base and third base. His arrival could prompt a trade.

"We want to be as flexible as we can be and have as many options as we can," Beattie said.

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