Memo to O's: Delgado's bat fits your team like a glove

November 11, 2005|By PETER SCHMUCK

INDIAN WELLS, CALIF. -- Florida Marlins slugger Carlos Delgado is frustrated, but he says that he doesn't want to be traded.

The Marlins are facing severe payroll problems, so they can't say unequivocally that they won't be forced to trade him.

The Orioles were one of the teams that tried to sign him last winter, so it's fair to assume that they would be interested if the Flying Fish decide to float his name in trade talks over the next few weeks.

Don't get excited just yet, but Delgado would be a perfect fit for a team that needs a big bat to put behind Miguel Tejada, and the Orioles would not have to get into a free-agent bidding war to get him.

Delgado and his agent arranged a conference call Tuesday to tell reporters that he wants to stay in South Florida and to pressure the Marlins to make their intentions clear about his future as well as the future of the team. The unusual media event, however, may have increased the likelihood that he will play elsewhere next season.

He probably should have known that it would be like this when his four-year, $52 million contract was set up so that the Marlins only had to pay him $4 million for the first year - a year in which they had hoped to put together a deal for a new ballpark.

Now, the Marlins face the possibility that Delgado ($13.5 million) and Mike Lowell ($9 million) will account for almost half of their 2006 payroll, which has Delgado worried that they will either unload his contract or be doomed to small-market oblivion for the remainder of his time there.

"I don't want to be traded. I want to be a Marlin, and I want be in Florida and have a chance to win," Delgado said.

The Marlins aren't talking, but agent David Sloan said during the conference call that he recently asked GM Larry Beinfest for assurances that the team would continue to field a competitive team.

"If you're going to field a team of Miguel [Cabrera], Dontrelle [Willis] and the seven dwarfs, tell us now," is the way Sloan described the conversation during conference call. "I told Larry all he had to do was say, `We're not shopping Carlos.' He said, `I don't want to do that.'"

Of course, any deal for Delgado would be complicated by the heavily back-loaded contract. The Orioles aren't going to give up young talent for the privilege of shelling out $16 million a year for the next three years. The Marlins almost certainly would have to subsidize the remainder of the contract - perhaps to the tune of $15 million - to make a trade possible with anyone.

Orioles officials cannot talk publicly about a player who is under contract to another club, but there is no doubt that Delgado is a player who would interest them if he is available under the right circumstances.

"I think you can assume that if we were interested in a player last year," said one member of the Orioles' baseball operations contingent at the GM meetings, "we probably would still be interested this year."

Delgado has played 10 full seasons in the major leagues and averaged 36 home runs and 114 RBIs per season. He is 33, but his performance in his first year in the National League (.301, 33 homers, 115 RBIs) was consistent with his career numbers.

If the Marlins end up trying to dump his contract, there will be several teams interested, but the Orioles already should have a pretty good idea what it would take to get him. They spent a good part of July working out a tentative deal for pitcher A.J. Burnett, but balked when the Marlins insisted that the Orioles take Lowell's big contract in the deal.

Lowell probably would not be in play this time, but the Marlins asked for pitching prospect Hayden Penn, outfielder Larry Bigbie and reliever Jorge Julio in July. They likely would be looking for Penn, Julio and at least one other top prospect to justify absorbing a big chunk of Delgado's contract.

It might be a tempting proposition for a team that badly needs to add an impact hitter at a time when the free-agent market is not exactly thick with marquee offensive players, but the Orioles have not had much success putting together significant trades over the past several years.

Maybe this year - with a brand-new front office hierarchy in place - will be different.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

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