What's the deal? Nothing yet

Orioles play waiting game with Tejada as GMs put primary focus on A. Rodriguez and others

November 07, 2007|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN REPORTER

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- There has been no escaping the dominant topic of baseball's general managers meetings this week. Over two days at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress resort, the future home of free-agent third baseman Alex Rodriguez has been debated relentlessly, making any other player seem like an afterthought.

That includes the Orioles' Miguel Tejada, who also has a Most Valuable Player award on his resume and a future that will likely remain uncertain for a little longer this offseason.

It is no secret the Orioles are willing to entertain offers for Tejada, who has said repeatedly that he has no interest in moving from shortstop to third base with his current team. However, at this point, the Orioles are forced into a waiting game while other teams consider runs at Rodriguez, Boston Red Sox free agent Mike Lowell or even Florida Marlins star third baseman Miguel Cabrera, who might be available in a trade.

"I don't think that [Tejada] is on the front burner for a lot of clubs," one American League general manager said yesterday.

Among the potential suitors - teams that have holes on the left side of their infield - most appear to be focused in a different direction from Tejada. The Chicago White Sox haven't decided whether they will exercise shortstop Juan Uribe's option, and third baseman Joe Crede is coming off back surgery and is reportedly a target of the New York Yankees to replace Rodriguez.

However, asked yesterday about the possibility of acquiring Tejada, White Sox GM Ken Williams said he had no interest. Williams was one of the most aggressive suitors for Tejada last season, offering the Orioles veteran starter Jose Contreras and pitching prospect Gio Gonzalez for the shortstop, according to a source.

The Philadelphia Phillies, who got little offensive production from third base in 2007, are focused on pitching and probably couldn't absorb the $26 million over two years left on Tejada's contract. The Chicago Cubs say they are content with shortstop Ryan Theriot, and uncertainty about their ownership situation makes them unlikely candidates to add Tejada's salary.

The Los Angeles Angels nearly acquired Tejada during the 2006 season, but Orioles owner Peter Angelos nixed a deal that would have brought young pitcher Ervin Santana and infielder Erick Aybar. According to one source, the Angels, who remain in need of a bat to protect Vladimir Guerrero, haven't expressed much interest in Tejada since.

Asked whether he has heard a lot of speculation about a potential Tejada trade, one American League GM said: "No, not much at all."

However, several executives cautioned it is far too early in the offseason and most teams will be coy about their interest in certain players. Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail, who has praised Tejada repeatedly, agreed.

"I'm at the point now where I'm just starting to get the individual interest," said MacPhail, who met with Tejada late in the season to discuss potential options, including a move to third base. "I'll be able to compile a better idea by the time the week's out. We're still in the preliminary stages of these things."

MacPhail did meet with Phillies GM Pat Gillick yesterday. However, it's unclear how much Tejada was discussed. When he was with the Seattle Mariners in 2003, Gillick tried to sign the then-free agent Tejada, who instead opted for a six-year, $72 million deal with the Orioles. Three years later with the Phillies, Gillick tried to acquire Tejada for outfielder Bobby Abreu, but the two sides couldn't agree on a deal.

Much has changed since. Gillick has made it clear at these meetings that the Phillies' focus and resources will go to improving their pitching.

Tejada's trade value also has decreased substantially since winter 2005, when he expressed a desire for a "change of scenery" because of disappointment over the direction of the Orioles. He hit .296 this past season with 18 home runs and 81 RBIs while being limited to 133 games because of a broken bone in his left wrist.

His power numbers have decreased, as has his range defensively, though he remains a productive hitter and run producer. He certainly would be considered a nice fallback option for teams that fail in bids to acquire Rodriguez or Lowell.

However, it appears the Orioles, who insist Tejada still has tremendous value and thus would expect a nice package in return in a deal, will be forced to wait like everybody else.

Asked whether it's possible he could make a big trade by the end of the week, MacPhail said: "Right now, I really don't see us having anything that could pop like that."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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