KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- With the season moving toward the midway point it's prime time for trade rumors -- and there are a couple floating around involving the Orioles.
One has native Baltimorean Mike Bielecki requesting to be traded by the Chicago Cubs, preferably to his hometown team, but that is unlikely. The Cubs are looking for a third baseman, but are not interested in a straight-up deal for Craig Worthington, currently on a rehabilitation assignment at Rochester.
The other possibility has a lot more credibility. If the Orioles are willing to take a gamble on raw physical talent that has gone astray, outfielder Cory Snyder is available. The White Sox have become disillusioned with the former Cleveland slugger and have put him on the waiver list.
Reportedly two teams have expressed an interest in Snyder, and though it could not be confirmed, the Orioles could figure in the picture. If Snyder clears waivers the White Sox will ask him to accept a minor-league assignment. If he declines he would then be a free agent.
"There's no way he'll go to the minor leagues," said one American League club official familiar with Snyder. "His raw talent is enough to intrigue you, but right now his head is all screwed up."
Reportedly Snyder is on the outs with White Sox hitting coach Walt Hriniak and has indicated he will not accept a minor-league assignment.
In the past the Orioles have been interested in acquiring Snyder, 28, who broke into the big leagues as an infielder and hit 83 home runs in his first three years. However, general manager Roland Hemond would neither confirm nor deny whether the Orioles would make a claim.
"I can't on anything specific like that," Hemond said last night from his home in Baltimore.
Manager John Oates likewise wouldn't be specific, but did admit Snyder's name had been mentioned within the last 48 hours. Snyder opened the season as a regular, but has been languishing on the bench with a .157 average that includes only one home run and nine runs batted in. He apparently is no longer in future plans for the White Sox, who yesterday signed veteran Ron Kittle to a minor-league contract with the idea of promoting him to the big leagues in about three weeks.
The problem facing the Orioles, who have first claim because they have the worst record in the American League, is whether they should make a waiver claim or wait and see if Snyder clears, and if the White Sox allow him to become a free agent. The chances are they will wait to see if the latter possibility takes place.
Snyder has an $800,000 salary, and should the White Sox decide to let him go for the $25,000 waiver price, the team picking him up would be liable for about $480,000. If Chicago asks Snyder to accept a minor-league assignment and he refuses, then the White Sox are responsible for the entire salary -- and Snyder would be free to negotiate with the other 25 major-league teams.
"He's a guy who can break your heart," said one team official. "You look at his ability -- he can run, throw and hit with power -- and you wait for him to knock your eyes out. But he hasn't made any adjustments in three years. You might say he's worth the gamble, but I don't know if he's worth the money."
The rap against Snyder, whose average has ranged from .215 (1989) to .272 (1986 and 1988), is that his run production at Cleveland came in opportunistic, but not necessarily crucial, situations. It is the same rap that followed Joe Carter from Cleveland to San Diego and Toronto.
After hitting a career-high 33 home runs in his second year, Snyder looked like a budding superstar, especially because of his defensive abilities. But he hit only 18 and 14 home runs the last two years, while hitting .215 and .233 and fell out of favor with Indians manager John McNamara last season, when he spent the last month and a half on the bench.
After his trade to Chicago, for pitchers Eric King and Shawn Hillegas, the White Sox figured Snyder would be rejuvenated by Hriniak. Instead, the controversial hitting coach's theories only seemed to further confound Snyder.
With his career floundering, Snyder is at the stage of having to start all over again. "I think they [the White Sox] would like to get a minor-league prospect for him," said an observer close to that club, "but they might just take the waiver price if that's the only offer they have. I think he might go out to the minor leagues if another club promised him a shot, but he won't do that here."
Meanwhile, it doesn't appear that the Orioles' efforts to trade Worthington for a pitcher have any chance of succeeding with the Cubs. The Orioles would love to get Bielecki, a durable righthander who won 18 games in 1989 but slumped last year and has been in the bullpen most of this season.
But the Cubs also have a case of the pitching shorts, and with Rick Sutcliffe reportedly finished, Bielecki could return to the starting rotation.