Guerrero warms O's winter agenda

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Outfielder is prime target at winter meetings

run at Matsui expected, too

Baseball

December 02, 2003|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Having met last week with representatives for free-agent outfielder Vladimir Guerrero, the Orioles are prepared to resume discussions as the winter meetings approach.

Mike Flanagan, the Orioles' vice president of baseball operations, said both sides expressed their interest during last Tuesday's session, but no formal offer was made to Guerrero's agents, Diego Benz and Fernando Cuza. That should change once the meetings begin Dec. 12 in New Orleans, if not sooner.

"We didn't get real specific on numbers," Flanagan said. "We agreed to meet sometime before the winter meetings or at the meetings."

Guerrero appeared in only 112 games this season because of a back injury but batted .330 with 25 homers and 79 RBIs. He had turned in five straight years with 34 or more homers.

A career .323 hitter, Guerrero would replace Jay Gibbons in right field and give the Orioles a presence in the middle of their lineup that's been missing since Albert Belle was found to have a degenerative hip condition in 2001.

The competition for Guerrero, 27, apparently won't include the New York Yankees, who are prepared to sign outfielder Gary Sheffield to a three-year deal reportedly worth between $36 million and $38 million.

Benz and Cuza also represent shortstop Miguel Tejada and first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, whose names came up during last week's meeting.

"When you talk to the agents, they're going to bring up everybody in their stable," Flanagan said.

The Orioles have some interest in Tejada, but still seem more inclined to move Brian Roberts to shortstop unless they can't acquire a run producer at another position. They remain intrigued by Japanese shortstop Kaz Matsui and would like him to visit Baltimore, but he doesn't seem inclined to tour major league cities.

Asked if the Orioles plan to make a serious run at Matsui, Flanagan said, "We'd like to."

Palmeiro is viewed more as a designated hitter and doesn't appear to fit into the Orioles' immediate plans, but he could emerge later depending on other moves made by the club.

A proposed trade for first baseman Derrek Lee fell through last week when the Orioles couldn't get him to commit to a long-term contract. The Florida Marlins apparently had agreed to take a minor league pitcher and position player from the lower levels of the farm system.

Lee was traded to the Chicago Cubs the next day, but he seems committed to going through arbitration and then becoming a free agent after next season. The Orioles didn't want to rent him for one season.

Richie Sexson also won't be playing first base for the Orioles next season. The Milwaukee Brewers traded him to the Arizona Diamondbacks yesterday in a nine-player deal.

The Orioles inquired about Sexson, but the Brewers didn't feel that the Orioles matched up with them as a trade partner.

"We know Gibbons can play first base, so we're not as concerned about it at the moment," Flanagan said.

"It's sort of an elastic picture. If we get the guy were looking for at one position, the puzzle changes."

Rosters are changing in other cities. The Boston Red Sox acquired pitcher Curt Schilling last week, and if Sheffield lands in New York, two of the Orioles' division rivals will have improved significantly.

Flanagan and executive vice president Jim Beattie envision similar upgrades for their club once the winter meetings commence and after players who aren't tendered contracts become available Sunday.

"You can't force things to happen," Flanagan said. "Some of the premier guys we're talking about aren't going to say, `OK, that's it, I'm done. I'm out of the market.' They're going to go around and take their time and put on a show, and agents are going to do that, too. We keep trying to pin them down on a time frame and they don't have one.

"It's the agents at this point who are controlling the state of the market, not the ballclubs."

Coaching update

With verbal commitments from all six coaches to return next season, the Orioles hope to have them under contract by the end of this week.

The staff's old deals expired on Oct. 31.

Bench coach Sam Perlozzo, pitching coach Mark Wiley, hitting coach Terry Crowley, third base coach Tom Trebelhorn, first base coach Rick Dempsey and bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks will join new manager Lee Mazzilli.

English instructor hired

In a newly created position, the Orioles hired Rosie Santizo as instructor of English and cultural literacy. She will assist in the education of Latin American players in the organization.

Santizo spent the past two seasons as the Red Sox's Latin prospect education coordinator.

"She taught players in the Dominican how life was going to be with language and culture in our country," said Doc Rodgers, director of minor league operations. "As many obstacles as you can remove from a talented player, the better chance you have of him meeting his potential."

Ripken clinic

Cal Ripken and Bill Ripken will conduct a coaches' clinic Dec. 13 at the Baltimore Convention Center. The event will run from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.

"We have been refining our coaches' clinic format at out-of-town venues for more than a year now," said Cal Ripken. "We are excited to finally host one in Baltimore. We want to expose as many youth baseball players as possible to our teachings, and the most efficient way to do that is by helping their coaches."

Bill Ripken will lead the fielding instruction. Former Orioles John Habyan and Mark Parent will conduct the pitching and catching sessions, respectively. Cal Ripken will provide the hitting instruction with assistance from his brother and Parent.

The clinic costs $150. Interested participants can sign up at ripkenbaseball.com or by calling 1-800-486-0850.

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