Free-agent outfielder Candy Maldonado said yesterday that he would like to play for the Baltimore Orioles, but conceded that the club's interest dropped considerably after the Glenn Davis trade.
"I think I could go to Baltimore and really help that team," Maldonado said from his home in the Cleveland area. "I'd love to play there."
The Orioles reportedly were close to offering him a three-year deal before the trade for Davis filled their run-production gap. Club officials have indicated that a long-term contract probably is out of the question now, but say they would listen if Maldonado's representatives came forth with a "reasonable" one-year deal.
Maldonado figured to be an attractive player in this year's free-agent auction, but a combination of factors prevented him from getting the three- or four-year deal he coveted. He held out hope that the Cleveland Indians would reward him for an impressive 1990 season that featured 22 home runs and 95 RBI, but they didn't even offer salary arbitration -- a development he sayshurt his chances with other clubs.
Meanwhile, players who had lesser numbers in 1990 took advantage of a December salary explosion to sign rich, multiyear deals. Franklin Stubbs, a player the Orioles also pursued early on, got more than $6 million for three years. Rob Deer, who batted .209 and struck out 147 times, also got a three-year deal worth more than $2 million per season.
If it seemed as if the free-agent shopping spree never would end, Maldonado found out in January that the opportunities were not unlimited. Rosters began to fill up, and the Davis deal might have scuttled his last best chance to sign a three-year deal.
Now, with spring-training camps opening in less than three weeks, he has had to reduce his demands and temper his expectations. He still says he deserves at least a two-year deal, but admitted that he might have to accept a one-year contract in order to prove that his big 1990 season was not an aberration.
"We might have to do that," he said. "It's a matter of time running out, but I'm working hard, trying to stay in the best shape possible."
Maldonado said he has been focused on Baltimore for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was a glowing recommendation from Indians coach and former Orioles second
baseman Rich Dauer.
"He said it was a great organization," Maldonado said. "That's what you like to hear when you're a player."
But Maldonado's first choice would have been to remain in Cleveland, where he was the most productive hitter in the Indians lineup last year. That is not entirely out of the question, but baseball rules prevent him from re-signing with that club until May 1 because he was not offered arbitration.
"I had hoped to stay in one place," he said. "I have kids in school, and I want what's best for my family. We thought Cleveland might be a nice place to make our home."
For years, quality players have been clamoring to get out of Cleveland, which has contributed to the Indians' chronic inability to compete for the American League East title. Maldonado wants to stay, but, at the ripe, old age of 30, he apparently doesn't fit into the club's latest youth movement.
There has been speculation that the Toronto Blue Jays soon will extend a one-year offer as the last significant step in a major roster reshuffle, but Maldonado would not say with whom his agents (Chuck Berry and Tom Reich) are negotiating. The Seattle Mariners also have been mentioned.
The Orioles remain a long shot, but general manager Roland Hemond said last week that the likelihood was slim that there would be any more major personnel moves before spring training.