Orioles Start Dealing

Kline traded for Hawkins

R. Hernandez, Dunn eyed

December 07, 2005|By JEFF ZREBIEC | JEFF ZREBIEC,SUN REPORTER

Dallas -- Virtually silent with personnel moves this offseason, the Orioles made their first news of the winter meetings yesterday, sending disgruntled relief pitcher Steve Kline to the San Francisco Giants for right-handed setup man LaTroy Hawkins and cash.

The trade barely created a ripple through the media room at the Wyndham Anatole Hotel when word of it circulated, but according to several industry sources, the Orioles made plenty of noise yesterday behind closed doors, including making a bid for San Diego Padres free-agent catcher Ramon Hernandez.

Several industry sources said that the Orioles presented Hernandez with a four-year offer worth about $27 million. But the Orioles, whose main competition for the catcher appears to be the Texas Rangers, are confident that they have a shot of signing the catcher by the end of the week.

The Orioles were scheduled to talk with about 10 teams yesterday, and according to one source, there was plenty of conversation with the Cincinnati Reds, who are at least listening to offers for slugger Adam Dunn. The Reds, according to the source, are apparently seeking a package that includes left-hander Erik Bedard.

One Orioles official confirmed that the club is extremely interested in Dunn, a left fielder who has hit 40 or more home runs in each of the past two seasons, but "it's going to be tough to pry him away" from Cincinnati. The Orioles would prefer not trading Bedard, 25, especially when they have to yet to make any additions to their starting rotation this offseason.

Chicago White Sox free-agent slugger Frank Thomas made his rounds yesterday, visiting several clubs, including stopping by the Orioles' suite. According to one source familiar with the Orioles' plans, Thomas so impressed the club that he is now being considered for a one-year, incentive-laden deal. If the Orioles land Hernandez and Thomas, they could look to trade catcher Javy Lopez.

Meanwhile, Orioles executive vice president Mike Flanagan said that he made the Kline trade to give the left-hander a "change of scenery" and the Orioles a power arm in the bullpen for the seventh and eighth innings. The Giants also sent some cash the Orioles' way, believed to be around $900,000, to cover the difference in the two relievers' contracts.

There are no plans to use Hawkins, who has 75 career saves, as a closer, but he will be insurance if the Orioles are unable to sign a closer or if 23-year-old Chris Ray falters in that role.

Hawkins, who learned of the trade while talking with the builder of his new house in suburban Dallas, said he was excited to get back into the American League and work with Orioles pitching coach Leo Mazzone.

"Leo is a good dude. He is funny as [heck]. He's a pitcher's pitching coach," said Hawkins, who spoke with Mazzone for about 45 minutes yesterday.

Hawkins, who will turn 33 later this month, split the 2005 season with the Chicago Cubs and Giants, going 2-8 with six saves and a 3.83 ERA.

"Certainly, we like the idea of LaTroy Hawkins, especially late in the game," Flanagan said. "We certainly felt that Steve needed a change of scenery and they needed a left-hander, so we made the deal."

Kline, a veteran who was signed as a free agent last offseason from the St. Louis Cardinals, went 2-4 with a 4.28 ERA in 67 appearances, but never endeared himself to Orioles fans or his teammates, who grew tired of his habit of holding court with the media, especially when he was not pitching well.

A vocal critic of former Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli, Kline struggled in the first half - partly because of offseason finger surgery that led to him arriving in spring training in poor shape. He compounded his problems by telling a St. Louis reporter that he regretted signing with the Orioles.

"I think we both had a situation with our previous teams," Kline said last night of his relationship with Mazzilli. "When I left St. Louis, there was a part of me that still wanted to be with a World Series team. [Mazzilli] was with the Yankees and he was still carrying that chip on his shoulder. He was a good guy; we just butted heads and then I got in trouble because I couldn't get anybody out. ... It was a learning experience and I learned some key lessons in Baltimore that I'll carry around the rest of my career."

In other Orioles news yesterday:

One industry source expects the Orioles to make a bid on Florida Marlins free agent and former team member Jeff Conine after today's arbitration deadline so the team will not have to give up a top draft pick. "It's looking good," said Conine's agent, Michael Watkins.

Flanagan said that the club talked to Arn Tellem, the agent for Nomar Garciaparra, but no offers were made. The former All-Star shortstop will make a decision in the "next couple of weeks," according to Flanagan.

While it remains extremely unlikely for the Orioles to land Marlins center fielder Juan Pierre, one league source familiar with both team's plans said that Florida was asking for Hayden Penn or Adam Loewen in return. That's probably not going to happen.

The Orioles inquired about Atlanta Braves catcher Johnny Estrada, young outfielder Ryan Langerhans and veteran starter John Thomson. However, according to one source, the Braves were focused on Ray, who is virtually untouchable at this point.

The Orioles talked to the Minnesota Twins about starter Kyle Lohse and left-handed reliever J.C. Romero, but the Twins aren't interested in moving Lohse.

The Orioles have seemingly cooled on free-agent closer Todd Jones, whose price tag, they believe, has gotten too high.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

Sun reporters Peter Schmuck and Dan Connolly contributed to this article.

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