O's make pitch for some relief

Club extends offers to Speier, Stanton, Walker, sources say

November 15, 2006|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN REPORTER

NAPLES, Fla. --Two days into baseball's general managers meetings, the Orioles' main goals for the week have become quite clear. They want to overhaul their bullpen as soon as possible and at all costs.

Since being allowed to discuss contracts with other team's free agents Sunday, the Orioles have made at least three offers in an attempt to bolster their bullpen. They presented Toronto Blue Jays right-handed setup man Justin Speier with an offer and did the same with Detroit Tigers left-hander Jamie Walker and San Francisco Giants left-hander Mike Stanton, industry sources said.

Though exact terms are unknown at this time, it is believed that Speier, 33, who had a 2.98 ERA last season as a bridge to former Orioles closer B.J. Ryan, is looking at a three-year-deal for about $12 million. Walker, 35, also received a three-year offer in the neighborhood of $10 million, according to a source. Stanton, 39, who made his major league debut in 1989, is expected to get a two-year deal.

While declining to comment specifically on the amount of the offers or even how many offers the Orioles extended, executive vice president Mike Flanagan said finding solid relief pitching has been a focus.

"We've certainly established that we are looking for bullpen help, whether it is in trades with other clubs or with free agency," said Flanagan, who acknowledged that the club could add as many as four relievers. "We've expressed what our wants are."

Speier could be the most difficult to land as he has been one of the hottest names on the free-agent market. His agent, Chris Arnold, did not return a call seeking comment.

Phil Tannenbaum, the agent for Walker, said that about "seven or eight" teams are interested in his client, who was 0-1 with a 2.81 ERA last season and held left-handed batters to a .238 average. Walker has made 50 or more appearances all five seasons in Detroit and has never had an ERA above 3.71 with the Tigers.

"Jamie just wants to pick the right spot and the Orioles are always an attractive option," said Tannenbaum, who also has represented former Orioles Buddy Groom and John Halama. "It's an honor to wear an Orioles uniform."

Tannenbaum said that Walker will make a decision soon, perhaps by the end of the week. Asked about the Orioles' offer, he said: "We have talked concepts and I think we're on the same page."

In other news, the Orioles have made progress in bringing back free-agent first baseman-designated hitter Kevin Millar, who hit .272 with 15 homers and 64 RBIs in his first season in Baltimore.

The Orioles have had discussions about a one-year deal with Millar's agent, Sam Levinson, who also represents Stanton. However, Millar said yesterday that he is looking for a two-year contract. He reiterated that his first choice is to remain with the Orioles.

"I hope to be their first baseman. That's been my feeling from the get-go," said Millar, who said several teams have expressed interest in him. "But I'd like to get a two-year deal. I am not 40. I am 35 and I think I can help this team. I didn't come here just to be here for one year and leave. Once I start something, I want to finish it."

The Orioles met with the agents for outfielder Carlos Lee and starting pitcher Gil Meche yesterday. Though no offers were made, the Orioles are expected to make a run at both.

"[The Orioles] are one of the teams," said Paul Kinzer, one of Lee's agents. "I think there is definite interest there. That's a nice park to hit in for a guy like Carlos Lee."

Kinzer also said that the Orioles have inquired about another one of his clients, Texas Rangers starter Vincente Padilla.

The Orioles have not had any significant discussions recently with the agent for slugger Alfonso Soriano, though Flanagan and vice president Jim Duquette maintain that the club is still interested. The Orioles remain a long shot for Soriano, who reportedly is seeking a six-year deal worth more than $100 million, a figure the Orioles likely won't touch.

The Orioles have gotten calls from three teams inquiring about the availability of Jaret Wright, the starting pitcher they acquired Sunday in a trade with the New York Yankees.

In two days, the Orioles' contingent here, consisting of Flanagan, Duquette and director of baseball administration Scott Proefrock, has met with the Seattle Mariners, Kansas City Royals, Arizona Diamondbacks, Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates and Tigers.

No deals are imminent, but most of the teams have asked about the Orioles' young pitching, specifically Erik Bedard, who is probably the most untouchable player on the team's roster. Duquette said that he hopes to meet with every team before the meetings end on Friday morning.

First baseman-designated hitter Josh Phelps, shortstop Cesar Crespo, third baseman Terry Tiffee and catcher J.R. House are expected to be among the six-year free agents signed by the Orioles.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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