Braves pursue Roberts

O's unlikely to deal him, Penn for LaRoche, Giles

December 05, 2006|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,[Sun Reporter]

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. --The Orioles have vowed to explore every avenue to acquire a middle-of-the-lineup bat and apparently that includes entertaining a trade offer for one of their most popular players.

According to several industry sources, the Orioles have had serious discussions about a deal that would send second baseman Brian Roberts and pitching prospect Hayden Penn to the Atlanta Braves for power-hitting first baseman Adam LaRoche and second baseman Marcus Giles.

The deal has "several hurdles," according to a source familiar with the trade talks, with a major one being Peter Angelos' preference to keep Roberts, who has long been a favorite of the Orioles' owner.

As of late last night, a club source said it's very unlikely that the deal would get approved.

Giles, 28, a year younger than Roberts, has only one year left on his contract.

Roberts is signed through 2008 and team officials have said that signing the former All-Star to an extension is one of the club's offseason priorities.

"I've always said I love playing here and I'd love to see this team get back to winning. That would make me very proud," Roberts said last night. "But I know how this business works."

Roberts said he has heard his name mentioned in some rumors, but didn't know any of the details.

That the Orioles would consider trading Roberts, an All-Star in 2005 and a fan favorite in Baltimore because of his gritty play, his boyish looks and his off-the-field contributions to the city, shows how desperate the Orioles are to obtain a power hitter in the middle of their lineup.

LaRoche, 27, would qualify as the young first baseman the Orioles have coveted for years. A left-handed hitter, he hit .285 last year in his third season with Atlanta to go along with 32 home runs and 90 RBIs.

Giles, a six-year veteran, was once considered one of the top young second basemen in the league, but he struggled at times last season while trying to replace Rafael Furcal in the leadoff role for Atlanta. He hit .262 with 11 home runs and 60 RBIs.

According to sources, Atlanta general manager John Schuerholz has been the aggressor on the deal as the Braves are looking for a proven leadoff hitter. At the GM meetings last month, the Braves offered Giles and pitcher Tim Hudson to the Orioles for Roberts and closer Chris Ray. The Orioles, concerned about Hudson's health and contract, turned it down.

But talks got more serious when Atlanta informed the Orioles that it might be willing to part with LaRoche. The two sides met yesterday morning on the first day of the winter meetings to further discuss the deal.

If the Orioles parted with Roberts, who hit .286 last season with 10 homers, 55 RBIs and 36 stolen bases in returning from serious offseason arm surgery, they would likely have to add a leadoff hitter to their list of needs. Club officials aren't confident that Corey Patterson, long criticized for his lack of plate discipline, could handle the role.

Penn, 22, who went 0-4 last year with a 15.10 ERA, is expected to get a shot this spring to make the Orioles' rotation, though it was more likely that he would either open the season in the bullpen or at Triple-A Norfolk.

In other news, the Orioles were expected to meet with Gregg Clifton, the agent of Luis Gonzalez, last night, but they acknowledged that they are probably a long shot to acquire the veteran outfielder, who would prefer to stay on the West Coast.

The Orioles made a one-year offer, believed to be for around $7 million, late last week. The Los Angeles Dodgers also have an offer on the table, though one source said that the Orioles had made the higher offer. It might not matter.

"I do think if everything is equal and there is a one-year deal on the table from us and a West Coast team, I think there is a good chance that he'll stay out West," said Orioles vice president Jim Duquette. "It may be difficult to convince him to come here on a one-year deal."

Duquette and executive vice president Mike Flanagan also acknowledged that it is unlikely that the club will be in on free-agent outfielders Jay Payton, Aubrey Huff and Cliff Floyd because all three would likely command more than one-year deals, more than the club is willing to give.

In other news:

One industry source said yesterday that the Orioles have brought up shortstop Miguel Tejada's name in trade discussions, but that assertion was strongly denied by a club official last night.

As of 6 last night, the Orioles had met with six teams and a common subject was the availability of starting pitcher Rodrigo Lopez.

With Erik Bedard, Kris Benson, Daniel Cabrera, Adam Loewen and Jaret Wright expected to constitute their rotation, Lopez is likely to be moved after a season in which he went 9-18 with a 5.90 ERA.

"We've had considerable interest on him," Duquette said. "We have felt all along that we are dealing from a position of strength with him. He gives us the versatility to start or relieve. If we don't find the right deal for the club, we are not going to trade him."

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