Orioles open to second helping

Team won't rule out dealing Hairston, Roberts

N.Y. looks to replace Soriano

Dealing from strength might bring back pitching

February 17, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

If the freewheeling New York Yankees want a second baseman to replace Alfonso Soriano, the Orioles would consider trade offers for Jerry Hairston or Brian Roberts, Orioles executive vice president Jim Beattie said yesterday.

Beattie said the Orioles and Yankees have yet to discuss such a trade, but another major league source said New York has identified Hairston as a potential fit after trading Soriano to the Texas Rangers in the deal for Alex Rodriguez.

The Orioles would have no problem making such a trade with their American League East rivals, Beattie said, as long as it's a move that can make his team better. His comments addressed speculation the Orioles wouldn't trade within the division.

Besides, the Yankees could look elsewhere for a second baseman, Beattie said.

"It's not like we're their only option," he said. "If we feel we can help our team to do it that way, we may do it, but it's not something we've been discussing with them right now."

The Rodriguez trade left the Yankees with former All-Stars at every position except second base, where Miguel Cairo and Enrique Wilson are expected to battle for the starting job during spring training.

Second base is the one area where the Orioles have a surplus, because Hairston and Roberts have established themselves as everyday players. Their top positional prospect in the farm system, Mike Fontenot, is also a second baseman.

Hairston, 27, is more experienced and considered a more polished defensive player than Roberts, 26, a switch-hitter and fellow leadoff man. Hairston, who was eligible for arbitration this winter, signed a one-year, $1.65 million contract, and Roberts will make closer to the $300,000 major league minimum this season.

Beattie said he isn't afraid of making a move that gives the Yankees the one missing piece they need.

"They may be doing the same for us," he said. "Things look wonderful in the wintertime. One player does not give you everything you need. They're a good team. They've gotten better; there's no doubt about it.

"But we feel good about where we are, and you have to keep adding pieces to your own puzzle."

Thus far, the Yankees have expressed little urgency about filling their second base hole. The tone is different from the way it was after third baseman Aaron Boone hurt his knee last month playing pickup basketball.

That injury spurred the trade discussions that brought Rodriguez to the Bronx, where he will switch from shortstop to third base.

"We anticipate that our second baseman is currently on our roster, most likely Enrique Wilson or Miguel Cairo," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said in a conference call yesterday. "One [Cairo] is a player who is new to us that we're pretty excited about, and obviously Enrique Wilson is someone we know pretty well.

"I don't anticipate anything from outside the organization, but I don't rule it out."

The Orioles are expected to use their second base surplus to address their starting pitching needs this spring. After Sidney Ponson, their rotation is filled with question marks.

But in that sense, the Yankees aren't a good match. They don't have a surplus of starting pitchers, and their farm system has thinned. Their projected starting rotation is Kevin Brown, Mike Mussina, Jose Contreras, Javier Vazquez and Jon Lieber.

Jorge De Paula, who carried a no-hit bid into the seventh inning against the Orioles on Sept. 26, is sixth on the depth chart, but that start looked like an aberration for him.

The Yankees' top prospects are catcher Dioner Navarro, who hit .341 at Double-A last year, and Eric Duncan, a third baseman who was drafted in the first round out of high school last year.

Beattie said the Orioles haven't set a specific goal for what they would expect to get in a trade for Hairston or Roberts, but he said, "There are other scenarios we could look at [besides starting pitching]."

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