The Baltimore Orioles reduced their arbitration caseload to four during the weekend, signing designated hitter Sam Horn to a one-year contract worth $687,500.
The final salary figure represented the midpoint between the $850,000 salary that Horn requested during the arbitration filing process and the $525,000 that the club offered.
Horn, who earned $205,000 last season, hit 23 home runs and had 61 RBI in 317 at-bats in 1991.
"We were pleased with his improvement last year," general manager Roland Hemond said. "He keeps getting better and better as a major-league hitter. He has made steady progress since joining us."
Nevertheless, Horn's playing time could decrease next season if the club doesn't trade first baseman Randy Milligan. The return of first baseman Glenn Davis has forced Milligan to find another place in the lineup, and a regular designated-hitter role appears to be the most logical choice.
Milligan is the better pure hitter, but his run-production numbers -- 16 home runs, 70 RBI -- were not substantially better than Horn's even though Milligan went to the plate 166 more times.
"The competition will determine that," Hemond said. "Being a left-handed hitter is a plus for Sam, but when you swing the bat well, you help yourself.
"It's going to be very competitive. That's the way you want it to be. You want to have depth, because that makes you a better ballclub."
Four arbitration-eligible players remain unsigned, and Hemond indicated that it will be difficult to avoid at least one or two arbitration showdowns. Time is running short, with Bill Ripken's hearing 10 days away.
"We want to get them settled, but there certainly is a likelihood of our going to [a hearing]," Hemond said. "The likelihood goes up as you get closer to the hearing dates."
Ripken requested an $800,000 salary in arbitration. The Orioles offered him a 10 percent pay cut (from his 1991 salary of $700,000 to $630,000 for 1992) after a frustrating season in which he came down from a career-high .291 average in 1990 to bat just .216 in 1991.
Milligan has the largest salary gap. He requested $1.4 million in arbitration -- $500,000 more than the Orioles offered. Pitcher Bob Milacki is close behind, requesting $480,000 more than the club offer of $700,000. Center fielder Mike Devereaux's request of $1.075 million is $200,000 more than the club offered.