Benson won't seek trade

O's talk to Yankees about trading for pitcher Wright, source says


November 11, 2006|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN REPORTER

On a day the Orioles were told officially by Kris Benson's agent that the pitcher would not exercise his contractual right to demand a trade, the club had further discussions about a deal that could add depth to its starting rotation.

The Orioles have had talks with the New York Yankees about acquiring 30-year-old pitcher Jaret Wright, according to an industry source. The Orioles likely would have to part with a reliever in return for Wright, who has fallen out of favor in New York after two inconsistent seasons.

The Yankees have until tomorrow to decide whether they will pick up Wright's $7 million option for next season, though they reportedly are leaning toward buying it out for $4 million. If that is the case, it's possible that New York might be willing to send the Orioles some cash to help offset the $7 million Wright is due next year.

Wright, who has a 68-57 record over 10 major league seasons and has battled shoulder problems throughout a career that started in Cleveland, had his most successful season in Atlanta in 2004 while working with current Orioles pitching coach Leo Mazzone. Wright went 15-8 that season with a 3.28 ERA and tied a career-high with 32 starts for the Braves.

His performance earned him a three-year, $21 million deal from the Yankees, but Wright struggled in 2005 with injuries, missing nearly four months with a right shoulder strain. This past season, he avoided the disabled list, but pitched sporadically as the Yankees' fifth starter, going 11-7 with a 4.49 ERA. Wright was the losing pitcher in New York's loss to the Detroit Tigers in the fourth and deciding game of the American League Division Series.

Even if the Orioles acquired Wright, they would likely still be interested in adding an additional pitcher via free agency. Club executives want to add depth to a youthful staff and give themselves flexibility so they can possibly trade a pitcher to upgrade the offense.

Benson's return was expected, although his agent, Gregg Clifton, said that the 32-year-old pitcher gave the matter serious thought. As a player with five or more years of experience traded in the middle of a multiyear contract - the Orioles acquired the pitcher from the New York Mets in January - Benson had the right to demand a trade after going 11-12 with a 4.82 ERA in his first season with the organization.

However, Clifton said that Benson, who did not return a phone call seeking comment, is happy in Baltimore. If he invoked the contractual right, the Orioles would have had until March 15 to trade him, or he would become a free agent.

"Kris believes that the Orioles are on the verge of turning this thing around," Clifton said. "I think the only frustration was the losing. It's a tough division to compete in, but he loves the city, loves the fans, loves the park. He likes the pitching coach, the manager. There were so many good variables that really supported his decision."

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