Roberts remaining with O's

Deal with Braves left stranded after objections from owner

December 06, 2006|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,Sun reporter

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- On a day when the Orioles continued their pursuit of a left fielder, they also worked to assure their second baseman that he is, indeed, in the club's plans.

Orioles vice president Jim Duquette said he exchanged text messages with Brian Roberts yesterday and assured him that he is "not going anywhere." On Monday, the first day of the winter meetings, the Orioles and the Braves were in the advanced stages of a deal that would have sent Roberts and pitching prospect Hayden Penn to Atlanta for second baseman Marcus Giles and first baseman Adam LaRoche.

According to several team sources, the trade, which had been gaining momentum for the past couple of weeks, officially died when club owner Peter Angelos informed Orioles executives that he wouldn't approve the deal.

Roberts is a longtime favorite of the Orioles' owner, both for his play on the field and his contributions off it. The deal would have landed the Orioles a young power-hitting first baseman whom they covet in LaRoche, who hit 32 homers and drove in 90 runs last season, and a proven replacement for Roberts in Giles, 28, who is a career .285 hitter and a former All-Star.

When asked about the proposed trade, two baseball officials, speaking yesterday on the condition of anonymity, said the Orioles were wise to not make the deal, pointing to the fact that Giles is a free agent after next season and would likely sign elsewhere and that the loss of Roberts would leave the Orioles without an established leadoff hitter.

Flanagan and Duquette wouldn't get into specifics about the deal, acknowledging only that they had contact with Roberts yesterday and that they did not have further discussions with the Braves.

"When I played, I hated to see my name in the paper for trades," said Orioles executive vice president Mike Flanagan. "It's very unsettling. It's unsettling to people's families. We get a little upset when our players' names get out. We probably talked about 25 different scenarios at the minimum and certain others get out. I wouldn't have liked to be [Roberts] today."

Roberts told The Sun on Monday night that he would like to remain in Baltimore, but that he would hold no grudges if he were traded. Orioles third baseman Melvin Mora, at the winter meetings to meet with Orioles legend Cal Ripken about a joint business venture, said he would be sorry to see Roberts go, but that trades are a part of baseball.

"Whatever the decision the front office makes, I support," Mora said. "I love Brian Roberts, but you get traded, and [your career] doesn't end right there."

An upbeat Mora touched on a variety of topics yesterday, including the mindset of All-Star Miguel Tejada. Mora said he spoke to Tejada about five days ago and the shortstop was "excited about every move the Baltimore Orioles made." Duquette also said that he spoke to Tejada recently.

Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said he has gotten positive reports about the shortstop from strength and conditioning coach Jay Shiner, who has spent some time with Tejada this offseason.

"He's fine," Mora said. "He says he is 215 pounds of muscle. That's what he tells me. He says that he is going to hit 40 home runs this year and drive in 200. I was like, `You can drive in 200.' You know how many people we left on bases [last year]?

"If he is not happy, I'll punch him," Mora said. "He's happy. Sometimes, he says something because he wants [to win], but now he is relaxed and quiet. He knows the front office is making some moves. When we talked the other day, he said, `Wow, did you see who we signed?'"

Mora also said he'd consider moving from third base to left field if he were asked. "This is the team," he said. "Sometimes, you don't think about all yourself. You have to think about the team."

The Orioles were expected to meet with Gregg Clifton, who represents free-agent outfielder Luis Gonzalez, again last night for another round of negotiations, but team officials acknowledged that they don't feel good about their chances. According to an industry source, the Orioles offered Gonzalez a one-year deal worth $7 million, but the 39-year-old is seeking a two-year deal worth $12 million to $14 million.

The Orioles are reluctant to offer the former Arizona Diamondback a two-year contract, but club officials wouldn't completely rule it out. Clifton said that the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals are the other teams Gonzalez is considering and that a decision could be made as early as today.

Duquette said that about a half-dozen teams are interested in pitcher Rodrigo Lopez and "two or three" of them have made offers. One of those offers came from the Kansas City Royals, who proposed outfielder Reggie Sanders in return. At this point the Orioles are not interested in Sanders and would prefer outfielder Emil Brown.

"I think we're trying to maximize Rodrigo's value," Duquette said. "If there's something that makes sense for us in a trade, we'll do it. But right now, that hasn't presented itself."

The Orioles met yesterday with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and inquired about center fielder Rocco Baldelli. At this point, it does not appear that the Orioles have a good shot to acquire Baldelli. One American League executive said Monday that he believed the Orioles would have to offer the Devil Rays starter Adam Loewen and closer Chris Ray to get Baldelli.

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