With the Orioles itching to bolster their starting pitching staff, two scenarios have risen to the fore: signing free agent Carl Pavano and trading for Oakland Athletics veteran Tim Hudson.
The chance of getting both pitchers appears slim, but the Orioles could land one, and vice presidents Jim Beattie and Mike Flanagan will continue exploring the possibilities, as they leave today for the winter meetings in Anaheim, Calif.
The Orioles' attempts to woo Pavano have been well-publicized, but according to major league sources, they've also had serious talks with Oakland general manager Billy Beane.
Beyond discussing the players Oakland would want in return for Hudson - with potential names including Erik Bedard and B.J. Ryan - the Orioles have asked Beane for a window to discuss a potential contract extension with Hudson. So far, Beane has declined to give them that window, which is a sticking point because Hudson will be a free agent after the 2005 season.
Speaking in general terms this week, Beattie said the Orioles "don't necessarily want to give up the ranch for a one-year situation."
In other words, a contract extension for Hudson would be critical, and industry sources say he is looking for a four-year deal worth $12 million to $14 million per year. Hudson, 29, went 12-6 with a 3.53 ERA last season.
But in this pitching market - with Boston's Pedro Martinez viewed as the only proven ace available, and Pavano headlining a group of strong No. 2 or No. 3 starters - Beane's phone has been ringing off the hook.
An industry source said the St. Louis Cardinals, Atlanta Braves, New York Mets and New York Yankees are also in the running for Hudson. But Beane has told the Orioles they could be the right fit because they have the talent the A's are seeking in return.
Recent speculation has put the Orioles in the running to land Hudson because they have two second basemen - Brian Roberts and Jerry Hairston - and the A's have a hole at second with Mark Ellis still recovering from a shoulder injury.
But according to major league sources, Oakland has minimal interest in Roberts, who made just $345,000 last year and won't be eligible for arbitration until next year. And the A's have even less interest in Hairston, who made $1.65 million last year and could get another raise this winter through arbitration.
It's pitching Beane wants, as he looks to retool a rotation that has relied so heavily on the Big Three - Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito. Mulder and Zito won't be eligible for free agency until after 2006, and Hudson moved to the front of the trading block when he gave A's management a March 1 deadline to complete a contract extension.
Having lost Jason Giambi to the Yankees and Miguel Tejada to the Orioles as free agents in recent years, getting nothing but draft picks in return, the A's would like to settle this Hudson situation quickly.
Reached at his office yesterday, Beane said he'd consider moving one of the Big Three at the winter meetings. "We're always willing to consider those things," he said, "but we're not at the point where we have to do something, either."
According to major league officials, the A's are one of several teams that have expressed interest in Bedard, and they also like Ryan and a handful of the Orioles' top pitching prospects. Another potential name on Oakland's list includes Nick Markakis, the Orioles' 2003 first-round draft pick.
The Orioles must weigh Beane's demands against their options on the shriveling free-agent market. Pavano is still very much in their sights, but there have been reports he's seeking a four-year, $40 million deal, a level the Orioles probably won't go for him.
Brad Radke re-signed with the Minnesota Twins for two years, $18 million. Jon Lieber signed with the Philadelphia Phillies for three years, $21 million. According to The Sporting News, the Yankees are close to deals for Jaret Wright (three years, $21 million) and Eric Milton (three years, $24 million).
Industry sources said the Orioles expressed interest in Al Leiter, who signed a one-year, $8 million deal with the Florida Marlins, and Matt Clement, who is still on the market. Beyond those, the Orioles expressed some interest in Russ Ortiz, though they backed off when they heard he was seeking $10 million per year, and Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Odalis Perez.
"We're not putting all our eggs in one basket," Beattie said yesterday.
NOTES: The Orioles signed infielder Chris Gomez to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training. Gomez, 33, hit .282 in 109 games for the Toronto Blue Jays last year. ... Besides re-signing B.J. Surhoff to a one-year, $1.1 million deal yesterday, the Orioles cut ties with Buddy Groom, David Segui, Omar Daal and Marty Cordova by declining to offer them arbitration.