O's offer Palmeiro to Dodgers

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

trade hopes slim

Team finding no takers for Hairston or Roberts

July 30, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - The Orioles moved another step closer to the non-waiver trade deadline yesterday without completing a deal, but according to major league sources, they floated the idea of trading first baseman Rafael Palmeiro to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Dodgers, who have been hoping to add a power-hitting first baseman, said they weren't interested.

Orioles officials described most of what they did yesterday as "spit balling," and they sounded more resigned to letting tomorrow's 4 p.m. deadline pass without making a move. But the Palmeiro discussions signaled a sign of things to come.

Palmeiro, 39, has experienced a sudden decline in his production this season. After hitting at least 38 home runs in each of the past nine years, he has 13 this season.

His .397 slugging percentage is down from his career mark of .522 and is the lowest it has been since he posted a .374 slugging percentage with the Texas Rangers in 1989.

Palmeiro returned to the Orioles in January with a one-year, $4.5 million deal. The Orioles hold an option for next season at $4.5 million, but unless Palmeiro bolsters his production significantly over the next two months, the team is likely to exercise his $500,000 buyout and explore such free-agent options as Carlos Delgado and Frank Thomas.

On the second base front, the Orioles continued to be stymied in their efforts to move Brian Roberts and Jerry Hairston.

The Oakland Athletics are one contender with a need at second base, but an A's source said the club's hands are tied because ownership won't let it take on any money. Oakland had discussions with the Philadelphia Phillies about second baseman Placido Polanco, and the A's ownership rejected a move that would have meant taking on an additional $500,000.

Roberts is making just $345,000 this season, but he's likely to qualify for arbitration this offseason, which could bump his salary to $1.5 million for next year. Hairston is making $1.65 million this season and will also be eligible for arbitration.

On Wednesday, the Orioles were surprised to learn the Tampa Bay Devil Rays had interest in acquiring one of their second basemen, but the Devil Rays called back yesterday and said they decided to be sellers rather than buyers.

So it looks like Roberts and Hairston are staying put, though club officials said they are confident both will clear waivers next month, allowing the team to move one of them before the Aug. 31 deadline for teams to set their playoff rosters.

Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said it's safe to assume Hairston will start getting more playing time at second if neither player gets traded this week.

"You have to live with it," Mazzilli said. "What can you do? You play the cards you have. We've dealt with it for three months. And we're not going to just give one of them away."

Around the horn

Jay Gibbons flew to New York and will work out with the team today. Mazzilli said Gibbons will go on a minor league rehabilitation assignment. ... Mazzilli used B.J. Surhoff in left field and Karim Garcia over Larry Bigbie in center because of his familiarity with Yankee Stadium.

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