Blue Jays' Cone deal isn't pushing Orioles into late-season trade


SEATTLE -- Nobody's willing to predict how the acquisition of David Cone by the Toronto Blue Jays will affect the Orioles. But it won't intensify their efforts to make a late-season addition of their own, nor does it necessarily lessen their hopes of winning the division title.

"You're always look to make moves to improve yourself late in the season, regardless of the situation," said general manager Roland Hemond. "This [the Cone trade] won't make us work any harder -- and we wouldn't have worked any less if it hadn't happened."

The Orioles have also been trying to add a starting pitcher for the stretch run but haven't been talking about a deal the magnitude of the one the Blue Jays made with the New York Mets.

"I don't know how you pull off something like that," Orioles manager Johnny Oates said after learning Toronto had gotten Cone for 24-year-old infielder Jeff Kent and a minor-leaguer, believed to be outfield prospect Ryan Thompson.

Of the pitchers mentioned who might be available to the Orioles, San Diego left-hander Craig Lefferts is the most prominent. Former Oriole Mike Boddicker's name has also surfaced, but his questionable physical condition would make it a big gamble to assume his $3 million salary for next year.

The Orioles do not have the kind of depth in their farm system to make the kind of trade the Blue Jays made with the Mets. Even if they did, its questionable whether they would have mortgaged a piece of their future.

If the Orioles were to obtain a top-quality pitcher, they almost certainly would have to part with one or more prospects the caliber of Manny Alexander, their highly regarded shortstop.

It was known that the Blue Jays had been trying to obtain a pitcher, but that they were able to get one of Cone's stature was something of a shocker.

"Looking at the Mets' situation, with [Bret] Saberhagen hurt and [Dwight] Gooden still somewhat uncertain, you wouldn't think that Cone would be a player they would trade," said Hemond.

"In these kind of deals, it depends on whether you think you can retain the player [Cone can be a free agent at the end of the year] and what you can get -- or have to give up -- to make it work."

In recent years, the Blue Jays have made a habit of making late-season additions, particularly to their pitching staff. Last year, they obtained Tom Candiotti from the Cleveland Indians, and earlier this year, they got Mark Eichhorn from the California Angels. Each time, they traded young prospect types in hopes of a quick fix.

Although the Cone deal undoubtedly surprised the Orioles, there were no regrets about not having blocked the trade. Any major-league team could have done so by putting in a claim for Cone when his name appeared on the waiver wire.

But that is almost unheard of with players of stature, especially this time of year, when most routinely clear waivers. Until July 31, there are no trading restrictions, but after that date, any player who changes teams must clear waivers, which ostensibly gives any team the ability to claim him.

In reality, that almost never happens unless a team desperately wants to unload a player, usually because of a prohibitive salary. Whenever a player is claimed off the waiver wire, the owning team can withdraw the name.

The team then wouldn't be able to make a trade without waiting until the next waiver period, which, in this case, wouldn't occur until Sept. 1. If waivers are asked a second time during the same period, they become irrevocable. And quality players aren't exposed under those circumstances.

"If you start claiming everybody [on waivers], you'd never get anything done [in the way of a trade] down the line," said Oates.

Hemond pointed out that making claims works against a team trying to make a trade.

"If there's somebody you really want, you can't claim him -- otherwise his name is pulled back and then you can't make a trade," said Hemond.

While the Orioles continue efforts to add help for the stretch run, they cannot afford to worry about the Blue Jays, who were reported last night to be close to another major deal.

"David Cone makes them [the Blue Jays] a better team," said Oates. "But he's still got to pitch."

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