Orioles prepared to go trade route Willing to deal some prospects


The Baltimore Orioles appear comfortable enough with their building blocks to do some redesigning of the top story in their household.

That was the outgrowth of the first day of the organization's three-day meeting yesterday at the Omni Hotel, where Orioles officials expressed satisfaction with the farm system and the potential moves it opens to them to get immediate help at the major-league level.

"We've reached some conclusions," said team president Larry Lucchino after a session devoted to evaluation of Orioles playing personnel. "One of them is that we have a well-stocked farm system."

General manager Roland Hemond said: "It was refreshing to hear about the progress some of the players we signed have made. Some have turned the corner. We were not discussing them in the same manner a year ago."

Player personnel director Doug Melvin said: "We bragged a lot about what we feel we have in the minor leagues."

The diagnosis opens a trade option considered unthinkable the past few seasons by an organization fully dedicated to producing its own talent.

But with the Orioles struggling on the field this season, there may be a slight detour to restock the big club without going too far off the youth-movement course.

"I think we have a chance to make a deal because of our depth," said Melvin. "There have already been some changes in front offices, and the climate is right for trading activity.

"Clubs in general try to win quicker now than to go in the direction we're going. But we still want to win for a long period of time, not win next year, then go through six or seven dry years. That's what you want to avoid."

The officials did not name any players who might be used in trades to acquire what manager Frank Robinson has said the Orioles need:

* An established hitter or two for the middle of the order.

* A front-line pitcher to show the way for the young Orioles staff.

* A hard-throwing left-handed pitcher.

"I think we all agree on what Frank has spelled out as our biggest needs," said Melvin.

But five Orioles prospects -- David Segui, Chris Hoiles, Luis Mercedes, Mike Mussina and Leo Gomez -- were recently cited by Baseball America as among the top 10 in the Class AAA and Class AA leagues, tying the Los Angeles Dodgers for the most in any organization.

And the Frederick Keys, the Class A affiliate, won the Carolina League title, indicating more prospects are on the way.

The stockpile of young pitchers looks particularly high, and everyone in baseball covets pitching help.

zTC More than 50 members of the organization -- scouts, player-development personnel, coaches, managers and instructors -- attended the first session that Lucchino called "as extensive and intensive an organizational meeting as we've ever had."

Major-league advance scout Ed Farmer called in from his home, where he is recuperating from a kidney problem.

In-depth discussions of what might be available in the free-agent market and from other teams were not undertaken. Those topics will be addressed this morning and all day tomorrow.

But Lucchino indicated the Orioles will take a much more serious approach to those avenues during the off-season.

"We discussed the philosophy of staying the course, the one we adopted," he said. "But free agency is on the agenda. We still have to operate on all cylinders. We'll consider all manners of off-season acquisitions."

Matching the Orioles' strengths to other teams' needs will be part of tomorrow's agenda.

Melvin said the organization faces "some tough decisions" about which players to protect on the 40-man roster this off-season.

"And the number won't be 40, in case you sign a free agent or make a one-for-three trade," he said. "Going into the [winter] meetings, that is a good possibility."

An analysis also is under way to determine which of the 25 other clubs the Orioles match up well with for potential deals.

"We have to eliminate some teams who have the same strengths," said Melvin. "Sometimes you don't even meet with them."

Lucchino said a presentation was made to player-development personnel to make them aware of the "special characteristics that will be needed for players in the new stadium. We have to prepare the kind of players who will conform to it."

* General manager Keith Lupton of the champion Keys has been named Carolina League Executive of the Year.

He is the third in franchise history to be so honored, joining Dan Overstreet (1981) and Bob Miller (1983), who operated the franchise while it was in Hagerstown.

The Keys averaged the highest paid attendance in Class A baseball (4,547) in their first season at Grove Stadium. They were were outdrawn overall only by the Carolina League rival Durham Bulls, who played seven more home dates.

"The general manager gets the recognition, but it's really a total staff effort," said Lupton.

Keys manager Wally Moon was previously named Manager of the Year, and Ricky Gutierrez made the league all-star team at shortstop.

In addition, pitcher Mike Oquist led the league with 170 strikeouts.

* A recent published report that linked Melvin to a front-office job with the Atlanta Braves is "totally false," he said.

"It was written that I called them," said Melvin. "And that's not true. But names always come up whenever a job opens."

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