The uncertainties of arbitration have influenced the Orioles to not offer contracts for next season to relief pitchers Gregg Olson and Todd Frohwirth.
By not tendering contracts by the midnight deadline last night, the Orioles allowed the players to become free agents. But the Orioles can continue to negotiate with both and appear determined to re-sign Olson.
"We want Gregg in an Orioles' uniform," said assistant general manager Doug Melvin, who along with owner Peter Angelos spent most of yesterday in negotiations with Jeff Moorad, Olson's agent. "That is the feeling of the organization and Mr. Angelos."
The decision not to tender a contract to Olson came as a mild surprise.
"I don't want to get into specifics, but we have some medical concerns [about the torn elbow ligament that sidelined Olson the last two months of 1993]," said Melvin. "We want to get Gregg signed for next year and we feel he wants to be here, but there is that concern.
"The harsh realities of arbitration affected this decision," admitted Melvin. "Without it [arbitration], not tendering Gregg probably would not have been a factor."
Both Olson and Moorad were fulfilling previous commitments last night and were unavailable for comment. However, Melvin said he did speak with the Orioles' closer before making the $l announcement.
"We left it that both sides would work hard to get this done," said Melvin.
Olson, who has more saves (160) than any pitcher his age (27) in history, recorded 29 saves last year before injuring his elbow. But, he pitched only eight innings after the All-Star break and could face surgery that would sideline him next year if his rehabilitation program doesn't rebuild his elbow.
Last year Olson earned $2.3 million while completing a two-year contract. He might have commanded a $4 million salary if his case went to arbitration. The Orioles were unwilling to take that risk.
"Both sides threw out different ideas and thoughts," Melvin said of the day-long negotiations with Moorad that caused him and Angelos to miss a family Christmas party for Orioles employees. "But we sensed that we didn't have time to get it done before the deadline.
"We still want to get Gregg signed, but [a contract] obviously would have to be heavily laced with incentives."
Frohwirth and Olson were the only two of eight arbitration-eligible players to whom the Orioles didn't tender a contract. Pitchers Ben McDonald, Alan Mills and Jamie Moyer, infielder Leo Gomez and outfielders Brady Anderson and Mike ** Devereaux are the unsigned Orioles who can have their salary determined by arbitration.
Players with three years of major-league experience, plus the top 17 percent in seniority of those with more than two years, are eligible for arbitration. Gomez (2 years, 170 days) and Mills (2 years, 150 days) qualify in the second category.
Frohwirth, 31, was not surprised yesterday when he learned officially that the Orioles would not offer him a contract for 1994.
"I was assuming this was going to happen," Frohwirth said last night from his Milwaukee home. "I guess with my high ERA they felt I wasn't pulling my weight for the salary."
Frohwirth, who made $900,000 last year, had a 3.83 ERA to go with a 6-7 record and three saves. The year before he was 4-3, with four saves and a 2.46 ERA.
Although they did not offer him a contract, there is still a possibility the Orioles could re-sign Frohwirth. His agent, Adam Katz, said he felt there was only a remote chance, but neither he nor Frohwirth completely ruled out the possibility.
The Orioles did make an offer to Katz on Friday, believed to be for $720,000, the maximum 20 percent cut allowed by the basic agreement. "It wasn't what I was interested in right now," Katz said. "I thought it was something of a 'no-offer' offer and they intimated it was take it or leave it.
"I didn't like the [salary] zone or the [negotiation] tone," said Katz. "It sounded like they were trying to tell me to go away. But I expect there will be plenty of teams who will have interest in Todd -- he's a quality middle reliever."
Frohwirth said his preference would be to return to Baltimore, if he gets an offer he feels is comparable to his market value.
"My best friends are there," he said. "I've had three great years there, but I realize it's a business decision.
"I don't even like this stuff [negotiations]. That's why I leave it all up to Adam. What we try to do is find out what my [market] value is -- and I don't push it to the limit.
"Last year, we exchanged [arbitration] figures and mine was $1.1 million. Then, based on what other people signed for, I figured my value was $900,000 and that's what I signed for.
"I'd like to be able to play in Baltimore for 100 years. When I was with the Phillies I'd have liked to have played in Philadelphia for 100 years. I'm interested in winning a World Series, and when February comes around I'll get pumped up about playing again.
"If we find out my market value has gone down, and Baltimore is interested at that figure and feels like I can help, then I'd like to come back."
Melvin did not rule out the possibility of resuming negotiations with Frohwirth. "Our policy with players that aren't tendered is to keep the door open," he said.
On another front, Melvin said yesterday's deadline for extending contracts didn't allow any discussion of free agent Chris Sabo. "We're going to talk about him tomorrow [today]," said Melvin, who said no offer had yet been made to the former Cincinnati third baseman.
In New York, Mets general manager Joe McIlvaine indicated his team and the Orioles were the only ones involved in discussions with Sabo. McIlvaine said he expected to hear from Jim Bronner, Sabo's agent, by today at the latest.