The Orioles are looking for a front-line starting pitcher, and they have contacted the Chicago White Sox about right-handed ace Jack McDowell.
Sound ridiculous? Think again.
McDowell is coming off a career year that might net him the American League Cy Young Award this week. He was 22-10 with a 3.37 ERA and led the White Sox to their first division title since 1983. He is heading for a major payday in arbitration and apparently has alienated the White Sox front office.
That makes him available, even if it would appear to be foolish for the White Sox to consider dealing him.
Several AL East teams are known to have contacted the White Sox. Orioles general manager Roland Hemond confirmed yesterday that his team is one of them.
Hemond and assistant GMs Doug Melvin and Frank Robinson leave for Naples, Fla., today and hope to pick up discussions there with White Sox GM Ron Schueler at the general managers meetings.
"I have had a discussion with Ron Schueler," Hemond said. "We're going to go to Naples and I told Ron we'd like to talk again there."
An article in today's editions of Newsday reported that the New York Yankees also are seriously interested in McDowell, along with the Orioles, Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays. No doubt, there are 23 other major-league clubs who would like to have him in their starting rotations, but if he is traded, he'll likely go to a team willing to sign him to a long-term contract.
He will command a large player package to acquire and a multi-year contract that will make him one of the game's highest-paid players. New Orioles managing general partner Peter Angelos has made it clear that money will not be a problem, but there is room to wonder if the Orioles have the personnel to pull off a trade of that magnitude.
"You never know if you can make a trade," Hemond said, "but they are willing to talk to us."
The annual November GM meetings usually are a time to lay groundwork for possible winter meetings deals, but this year they have taken on added importance because the major leagues have largely withdrawn from the joint Major League/National Association winter meeting.
There has been speculation that trade talks will be far more intense, but the major-league general managers still are hamstrung by the roster uncertainty created by the free-agent market. The major-league clubs pulled out of the winter meetings in part because they had turned into little more than a free-agent marketplace.
The situation with McDowell might be different, however. The White Sox may want to move him quickly, before possible trading partners have begun to spend the money they have allotted for player acquisition. The more teams with $6 million still available in their 1994 budget, the more competition there will be for McDowell.
Whoever acquires him figures to sign him to a multi-year contract, which could run as high as the five-year, $28 million contract Greg Maddux signed with the Atlanta Braves last December.
The Orioles are expected to increase their payroll by up to $10 million this year. They are known to be interested in free-agent first basemen Will Clark and Rafael Palmeiro, as well as %o left-handed starting pitcher Sid Fernandez. Angelos said that budget considerations will not be ignored, but he has not ruled out acquiring two -- or even three -- quality players to bolster the club.