ANAHEIM, Calif. - At the end of the winter meetings, it was hard to tell who was hurting worse yesterday: the Boston Red Sox, who were reportedly close to losing Pedro Martinez to the New York Mets, or the Orioles, who seemed to spend the past five days spinning their wheels.
The Orioles came in hoping to land an impact pitcher or first baseman, but they got blanked on both fronts. Then, yesterday morning, they lost the only notable player they've acquired this offseason, when the Philadelphia Phillies stole shortstop Chris Gomez in the Rule 5 draft.
Though not exactly a major transaction, it left the Orioles' brass disappointed as they headed back to Baltimore. Explaining what happened, Orioles executive vice president Jim Beattie said, "It was probably a bit of an oversight."
Meanwhile, in a decision that undoubtedly will have a big effect on the American League East standings, Boston drew a line with Martinez after offering a three-year contract for about $40 million. By yesterday, team officials were resigned to losing the three-time Cy Young Award winner after the Mets stepped up with a four-year offer worth $56 million, according to the Boston Herald.
Martinez must pass a physical before the deal is complete.
"He was a great member of the Red Sox team for seven years, and a certain Hall of Famer," Red Sox president Larry Lucchino told the Associated Press in an e-mail. "He will be missed, and we are disappointed to have lost him to the Mets and the National League."
However, Mets general manager Omar Minaya would not confirm that an agreement had been reached.
"I've said before there comes a point in time where you need some kind of closure," Minaya said. "We're working hard at it. That's all I can say."
Martinez would join a Mets rotation that includes two-time Cy Young winner Tom Glavine, Kris Benson, Steve Trachsel and Victor Zambrano.
"The more quality guys you have in your rotation, the more everybody feeds off everybody else," Glavine said. "All those years in Atlanta, you always had the pressure to keep up with everybody, but you knew if you had a bad game, you had the luxury of knowing somebody behind you would have a good game."
With Martinez, 33, fading from their picture, the Red Sox have been exploring potential trades for Oakland's Tim Hudson and the Florida Marlins' A.J. Burnett - two starting pitchers who are also on the Orioles' radar screen.
Oakland general manager Billy Beane called the Orioles yesterday, but the sides moved no closer to a deal. The A's have offered Hudson and Barry Zito to the Orioles, but Oakland's asking price is still three top young pitchers - Erik Bedard, John Maine and Hayden Penn - and the Orioles refuse to budge.
Orioles officials left California believing the Atlanta Braves were the favorite to land Hudson, with the Los Angeles Dodgers close behind.
The Orioles were also no closer to deals for Richie Sexson or Carlos Delgado. On Sunday night, it looked like they had lost Sexson to the Seattle Mariners, but yesterday Sexson's agent, Casey Close, insisted the Orioles were still in the hunt with Seattle.
"He's obviously still an unsigned player," Close said. "We've had a couple good discussions with those two clubs as recently as [Sunday] night. We're on our way back to New York, and I'll continue dialogue with both teams as soon as tomorrow."
While some Mariners officials have said they have an agreement with Sexson, pending a physical, Close disputed that, saying Sexson did not have a physical scheduled with any team.
"It's a lot like [pitcher] Eric Milton," Close said. "He supposedly had a deal signed four weeks ago with the Yankees. He's still out there on the open market."
Orioles officials said they made more progress with Sexson than they did with Delgado, in part because Sexson's asking price has been lower than Delgado's.
The Orioles have made Delgado a three-year, $30 million offer, but his latest contract paid him $68 million over four years and at age 32, he has no intentions of taking such a significant pay cut. Still, with all signs pointing toward Sexson's landing in Seattle, the Orioles could be forced to ante up for Delgado or look for an outfielder who could give them the bat they want, perhaps Magglio Ordonez.
While consumed by some of these major pursuits, the Orioles let Gomez slip through the cracks. They were pleased last Wednesday when they signed him to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Gomez, 33, hit .282 in 109 games with the Toronto Blue Jays last year, and he was a good bet to make the Orioles' Opening Day roster as a utility infielder.
But players who aren't placed on a team's 40-man roster are exposed to the Rule 5 draft, and the Orioles left Gomez even more vulnerable by placing him on their Double-A Bowie roster, later saying they didn't want to part with any of their Triple-A Ottawa players. The Phillies grabbed him in the Triple-A portion of the draft.