The Orioles have exercised their option on Tim Hulett's contract for next season, general manager Roland Hemond said last night.
Later today, the club is expected to confirm that it will not offer arbitration to pitchers Storm Davis and Craig Lefferts.
Hemond said last night that there "was nothing to announce at this point" on the status of the two pitchers. "We have until midnight [tonight] to make that announcement."
There was never much doubt that Hulett would be invited back for next year. The utility infielder, who has been with the Orioles since 1989, hit .289 (41-for-142) last season and led the club with a .412 average (14-for-34) with runners in scoring position.
"Tim has done a good job for us in the role he has played," said Hemond. "We figured he fit into our plans for next season."
A year ago, Hulett, 32, signed a $380,000 contract that included an option for 1993. The Orioles had until today to exercise that option.
A career .242 hitter in the majors, Hulett batted .278 in 33 games with the Orioles in 1989, .255 in 53 games in 1990 and .204 in 79 games in 1991.
He has accumulated 598 at-bats with the Orioles over the past four seasons, earning a reputation as a player who can fill in at either second or third base and be productive as a pinch hitter.
By not offering arbitration to Davis and Lefferts, the Orioles would be following a rapidly developing trend in baseball. With more than 160 players eligible for free agency, that market figures to be glutted by teams declining potential arbitration cases.
The Toronto Blue Jays have turned down arbitration for Dave Winfield and Candy Maldonado.
Players in this category can still be re-signed, and many will be, but no compensation will be required if they sign with other teams.
Davis, 30, was in the last year of a three-year contract that paid him $2.3 million last season. Lefferts, 35, obtained late in the season from San Diego, earned $2.04 million.
The Orioles still have interest in both pitchers, especially Davis, who has expressed a desire to finish his career here.
In both cases, however, they are not willing to risk paying a salary set by an arbitrator, gambling that Davis and Lefferts will command a lower salary on the open market.
Davis, obtained from the Kansas City Royals for catcher Bob Melvin last winter, was 7-3 with a 3.43 ERA while being used primarily as a relief pitcher.
Lefferts, who was 13-9 with the San Diego Padres, was 1-3 with a 4.09 ERA in five starts with the Orioles during the last month of the season.