ROSEMONT, Ill. -- The Orioles today traded reserve outfielder Dave Gallagher to California for two minor-league pitchers, while the Boston Red Sox signed free-agent lefthander Matt Young to a three-year, $6.35 million contract.
What more needs to be said?
A total of six free agents signed yesterday for nearly $50 million, but the Orioles kept counting their pennies. Not surprisingly, they lost Young to a division rival, and also appeared to lose ground in their pursuit of first baseman/outfielder Franklin Stubbs.
Meanwhile, talks collapsed with Boston over a trade that would have sent righthander Pete Harnisch to the Red Sox for either first baseman Carlos Quintana or outfielder Phil Plantier.
Things were so bad, the Orioles couldn't even manage a selection in the major-league draft. They released "Texas" Mike Smith to clear a roster spot, then passed on their turn after Minnesota took the player they wanted, Class A outfielder Pat Howell.
Ever see those plus-minus ratings in hockey?
The Orioles are barely breaking even at the winter meetings.
Today's deal brought the club righthander Dave Martinez and lefthander Mike Hook. Martinez, 27, was a combined 6-12 at Class A and Double A last season. Hook, 22, was 6-3 with a 1.89 ERA at Class A, with 66 strikeouts in 38 innings.
Still not excited?
Here's the kicker: Club officials are expected to meet today with Alan Hendricks, the agent for free-agent outfielder George Bell. It could be one of the briefest conversations in the history of contract negotiations.
Hendricks last night confirmed a meeting would take place. The Orioles are expected to inquire about the amount of money the Bell would want to join the same organization as his brother Juan. Then they are expected to politely escort Hendricks out of sight.
The Chicago Cubs reportedly are trying to sign Bell to play leftfield, though his only concrete offer is believed to be from Toronto, the team that wants to return as a designated hitter. Bell has said he wants a four-year, $16 million contract to remain with the Blue Jays.
Hendricks has said Bell would like to play in Baltimore, but from all indications the Orioles appear unwilling to part with more than $6 million for the free agents they're pursuing, neither of whom is in Bell's class.
Their offer to Stubbs is definitely for three years. Their offer to Young increased from two to three. But if $6 million is indeed the Orioles' limit, then they dropped out on Young, who was 8-18 with a 3.51 ERA last season. And they're likely to drop out on Stubbs.
Asked about losing Young, manager Frank Robinson said, "He was the guy we were looking at. It just didn't work out. I guess he decided that was a better place for him. We'll have to start looking for other things."
Team officials met with the agents for both players yesterday. Young's agent, Baltimore attorney Ron Shapiro, said the Orioles were indeed "serious." Stubbs' agent, Jim Turner, said their interest in his client was "rising."
"I outlined my thoughts," Turner said. "I gave them my point of view about contracts, dollars, the marketplace, how many teams were interested. I just explained things. We really didn't get into specifics."
It's possible the Orioles will make Stubbs another offer, but will it matter? Minnesota and Montreal have interest, as does Atlanta. Never mind that the Braves signed free-agent third baseman Terry Pendleton to a four-year, $10.20 million contract yesterday.
It's little wonder Orioles president Larry Lucchino described himself as "frustrated" and "disappointed" last night. His team's trade possibilities are diminishing as well -- not counting the Gallagher blockbuster.
Quintana? Sources said the Orioles offered Harnisch, the player the Red Sox they wanted. But then Boston general manager Lou Gorman changed his mind about trading Quintana. He also rejected Harnisch-for-Plantier.
Two sources said the Orioles are now "dead" with the Red Sox, but Gorman told Boston writers a different story. He claimed to have made two counter-offers to the Orioles, one that was turned down, another that remains under consideration.
Either way, Gorman could regret his indecision, but he reportedly had second thoughts for two reasons: First baseman Mo Vaughn might not be ready for the majors, and free-agent rightfielder Tom Brunansky might sign with another team.
Quintana hit .287 with seven homers and 67 RBIs last season, but the Red Sox badly need pitching. Now the Orioles appear so fed up with Gorman -- remember their ill-fated quest for Mike Greenwell? -- they might not talk with Boston again.
In the late afternoon a club source said, "Right now we're just trying to regroup so we can take a run at some other clubs. It's discouraging, really. I don't think we'll get anything major done .. here."
That much seems obvious, but the situation will look even worse if the Orioles also fail to sign Stubbs. The AL East is widely perceived as a division that can be won with the correct off-season moves. The Orioles appear incapable of such action.
Their attendance last season was 2.4 million, and their $7.9 million payroll was the lowest in the major leagues. Yet, the organization seems to dwell on fiscal restraint while its competition surges forward.
The highest-paid Oriole, shortstop Cal Ripken, signed a three-year, $6.2 million contract in 1988. That deal is now as outdated as black-and-white television. Yesterday, Los Angeles signed free-agent pitcher Kevin Gross (9-12. 4.57) to a three-year, $6.4 million deal.
Spend millions, or count pennies.
There is no middle ground.
* PRICE-GOUGING: For what it's worth, Orioles farm director Doug Melvin and counsel Lon Babby met yesterday with the agent for free-agent reliever Joe "Walking Time Bomb" Price.
Melvin described the talk as "good . . . cordial," but the agent, Joe Bick, said the Orioles haven't changed their thinking on Price since declining the $400,000 option year on his contract last month.
Price, 34, later sent the club a medical report from two Bay Area specialists as testimony he could still pitch despite a bulging disc. The Orioles, leaving all options open, appear to be considering an offer to Price.
"There's really not a whole lot new," Bick said. "It's the same things we've talked about since the season ended and they didn't pick up the option..."
* AND EVANS?: Meanwhile, the Orioles continue to have interest in another free agent with a back problem -- 39-year-old outfielder Dwight Evans, the major leagues' active home-run leader at 379.
Evans' agent, Jack Sands, said he renewed contact with Orioles general manager Roland Hemond yesterday. Sands reportedly is negotiating with the Chicago White Sox, Detroit and Montreal as well.