Hawkins top bait to catch O's deal

Disappointing years of most O's veterans dim club's trade prospects nearing deadline

Orioles

July 25, 2006|By JEFF ZREBIEC | JEFF ZREBIEC,SUN REPORTER

A week before the non-waiver trade deadline, it is looking more likely that the Orioles will not make any deals that will heavily impact the 2006 roster.

Team executives continue to work the phones, hopeful of making significant additions that will buoy the team for the rest of the season and in the future. But with the club maintaining it has yet to be overwhelmed with an offer for star shortstop Miguel Tejada and that it is looking to build around - not trade - its young pitching, the Orioles are short on valuable trade chips.

Many of the Orioles on the block, a group including Rodrigo Lopez and his personal catcher, Javy Lopez, have had disappointing seasons, and in most cases, wouldn't draw more than mid-level prospects in return. Reliever LaTroy Hawkins, who has a 3.86 ERA and has given up 48 hits in 42 innings, has become perhaps the Orioles' most valuable trade commodity.

Orioles executive vice president Mike Flanagan said that he and vice president Jim Duquette are receiving plenty of calls, but at this point, no deals are imminent.

"In baseball, there is a long time between now and the deadline," said Flanagan, who said the organization will meet with its scouts today to go over reports on several players. "I think there is significant interest [in our players] around, but I don't know if we have it worked out what our best deal would be at this point. A lot of clubs, we haven't been able to pin down. Teams have a sense of what we're looking for."

At this point, the Orioles, seeking to add a corner outfielder and a power-hitting first baseman, have struck out on several pursuits. They talked to the Philadelphia Phillies about their expensive outfielders - Bobby Abreu and Pat Burrell - but talks between the teams about those players are essentially dead, according to industry sources.

Both Phillies have no-trade clauses and the Orioles were informed that neither is likely to drop his to come to Baltimore, said a team source.

The Orioles also covet Colorado first baseman Ryan Shealy, 26, but turned down the Rockies' request for pitching prospect Hayden Penn in return. The club would part with lesser prospects, such as Jim Johnson and Brian Finch, for Shealy.

The Orioles think highly of Detroit Tigers outfielders Craig Monroe and Marcus Thames, both 29, but neither appears available at this point.

Orioles officials would like to move several veterans; however, they have received very little interest in catcher/designated hitter Javy Lopez, who has only eight home runs and 30 RBIs; or Kevin Millar and Bruce Chen.

Jeff Conine's recent hot streak - his average is up to .264 - has attracted some attention, but his contract, featuring an option that could vest if he reaches 450 plate appearances (which he is on pace to do), could be a deterrent.

In a trade market short of experienced starting pitching, about 10 teams have contacted the Orioles about Rodrigo Lopez, who has won 14 games or more in three of the past four seasons. However, Lopez hasn't gone six complete innings in any of his past four starts and has only two wins in his past eight outings.

Even if the Orioles aren't able to dump some of their veterans before Monday's deadline, several of them likely would pass through waivers without being claimed, meaning that they could be traded after the deadline.

"There's certain guys that you can pass through waivers and still be able to do something," Flanagan said.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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