Orioles general manager Roland Hemond, adept at the art of talking without saying anything, didn't waste any posturing yesterday afternoon on former protege Dave Dombrowski, GM of the Florida Marlins.
The Orioles needed a second baseman. The Marlins had a spare one on hand. Dombrowski gave Hemond a list of names that interested him. Hemond told him which one he could have. Done deal.
Just like that, Mark McLemore's Orioles career ended, Bret Barberie became Cal Ripken's double-play partner, and the Orioles lost a young pitcher, Jay Powell, they once thought enough of to draft in the first round in 1993.
The Orioles, lukewarm on the prospect of re-signing McLemore to play second base, instead decided to trade for Barberie, a switch-hitting second baseman who hit .301 in 372 at-bats for the Marlins last season.
In exchange for Barberie, the Marlins acquired Powell, 22, a hard-throwing right-hander. He went 7-7 with a 5.04 ERA in 24 appearances (20 starts) for Class-A Frederick.
Barberie, 27, has a higher career average than McLemore from both sides of the plate, and is a career .283 hitter in three-plus major-league seasons. He lacks speed and has limited range and a strong arm.
It didn't take the Orioles long to determine they wanted Barberie, a seventh-round draft choice of the Montreal Expos in 1988, and a first-round expansion draft choice of the Marlins.
Negotiations for the first trade made between Hemond and Dombrowski, who worked together for 8 1/2 years with the Chicago White Sox, began and ended yesterday afternoon. Dombrowski called it "maybe the fastest trade I ever made."
For McLemore, it marked a quick end to contract negotiations that heated up last Friday, when the Orioles, according to McLemore's agent Tony Attanasio, offered a two-year contract for a lower annual salary base than the $1 million McLemore earned in 1994.
Attanasio said he called the Orioles yesterday in an attempt to get them to increase the incentive clauses in the contract, but was told the club no longer had an interest in his client because of the trade.
Attanasio said he thought money played a part in the decision to put Barberie, who made $302,500 last season, ahead of McLemore. "They reduced their payroll, got a good regular player, a good hitter, a nice guy who plays hard," he said. "I think he'll fit the Orioles organization."
McLemore, 30, spent three seasons with the Orioles, hitting .246, .284 and .257, and earned the respect of the fans at Camden Yards for running out every ground ball.
Hemond confirmed that the Orioles will not attempt to re-sign McLemore.
"It's fine," McLemore said. "It's obvious they didn't want me there and I didn't want to be anywhere I was not wanted. They say it's a business and I can live with that."
The most disappointing aspect of not returning, McLemore said, was being denied the opportunity to partake in baseball history, serving as Ripken's double-play partner if he should break Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games record.
"I really would have liked to have been standing next to him next year when he breaks the record," McLemore said. "Unfortunately, that's not going to happen now. I really like Baltimore and my family really likes Baltimore, but hey, you have to move on."
McLemore learned of the news last night in San Diego, where he had flown to attend the funeral of a childhood friend who died of cancer.
"That puts things in perspective very quick right there," McLemore said.
McLemore and Attanasio said several clubs have expressed interest in him but declined to elaborate.
Meanwhile, Barberie said he welcomed the trade.
"I get home, get a phone call, my jaw dropped to the ground and here we are," Barberie said. "No warning at all. Bam, it just happened. I'm happy with the whole thing and I'm really looking forward to it. I've never been through there, but I've heard nothing but good things about Baltimore. I hear the fans are probably the best in baseball. The ballpark speaks for itself, and it's a beautiful place to live."
Orioles manager Phil Regan spoke to why he found Barberie more appealing than the faster McLemore at second base.
"He's a much better right-handed hitter and maybe even a little better fielder," Regan said.
Barberie, described by Hemond as "a hard-nosed guy who turns the double play well," became expendable when the Marlins acquired Quilvio Veras from the New York Mets.
As for Powell, the Marlins appeared to have better scouting reports on him than the Orioles.
"We loved him in the draft," Dombrowski said. "Maybe he'll be a closer in the future. Our scouts just gave us glowing reports. His statistics were misleading. We don't know if he'll be starting or relieving for us."
Powell, slowed by arm troubles in 1993 and used as a starter in 1994 to work on expanding his repertoire, was projected as Bowie's closer in 1995.
"I was pleased with his development," said Orioles scouting director Gary Nickels. "I wouldn't say we were disappointed, but I wasn't raving about him. He wasn't a guy who was going to be a quick ascent to the big leagues. We planned for him to be in Double-A in '95 and Triple-A in '96."
The trade came one day after the Orioles lost pitching prospects Vaughn Eshelman and Francisco Saneaux in the Rule V draft.
THE BRET BARBERIE FILE
Born: Aug. 16, 1967. Bats: Both. Throws: Right.
1988: Was selected by the Montreal Expos, but postponed his debut to play on the U.S. Olympic team that won the gold medal in Seoul. 1989: Made his professional debut with West Palm Beach of the Florida State League, where he hit. 267 and was selected to the All-Star team. 1990: Played the entire season with Jacksonville (Double-A), where he hit .260 in 133 games. . . . Had the best fielding percentage (.977) among Southern League second basemen. 1991: Batted .282 at Triple-A Indianapolis before his first promotion to the major leagues on June 14. . . . Named the Expos' Organizational Player of the Month for April (.310, 6 HRs, 19 RBIs). . . . Became the second player in Expos history to homer from both sides of the plate in the same game on Aug. 2 at Philadelphia. They were his only homers of the season. . . . Started the seventh triple play in Expos history on Sept. 8 vs. the Reds. 1992: Was the Expos' Opening Day third baseman. He started 57 games at third and 17 at second. 1993: Was the Florida Marlins' third pick in the first round of the expansion draft. . . . Reached career highs in nearly every offensive category despite two stays on the disabled list. . . . Was the Marlins' starting second baseman on Opening Day and picked up the first hit in franchise history in the first inning (a single off Orel Hershiser). . . . Had a career-high 15-game hitting streak Aug. 7-22 during which he hit .433. . . . Hit three home runs in 108 at-bats during August. He had entered the season with three career home runs in 421 at-bats. 1994: Set career highs in hits (112), doubles (20) and extra-base hits (27). . . . Hit safely in 16 of his last 18 games to finish the season at .301. . . . Hit .371 with two out and runners in scoring position and only .197 with less than two out. . . . Hit by nine pitches to set a Marlins record. . . . Tied a club record with six consecutive hits July 16-17. Also reached base in eight straight plate appearances (six hits, two walks) over the same stretch to set a club mark.
Year, Club .. .. Avg. .... AB .... R .... H ... 2B .. 3B .. HR .. RBI .. SB
1991, Montreal .. .353 ... 136 ... 16 ... 48 .. 12 ... 2 ... 2 ... 18 ... 2
1992, Montreal .. .232 ... 285 ... 26 ... 66 .. 11 ... 0 ... 1 ... 24 ... 9
1993, Florida ... .277 ... 375 ... 45 .. 104 .. 16 ... 2 ... 5 ... 33 ... 2
1994, Florida ... .301 ... 372 ... 40 .. 112 .. 20 ... 2 ... 5 ... 31 ... 2
Totals ............ .283 .. 1168 .. 127 .. 330 .. 59 ... 6 .. 13 .. 106 .. 15
Year .. Club ....... Avg. .. HR .... RBI .. SB
1986 .. Calif. .... .000 .... 0 .... 0 .... 0
1987 .. Calif. .... .236 .... 3 ... 41 ... 25
1988 .. Calif. .... .240 .... 2 ... 16 ... 13
1989 .. Calif. .... .243 .... 0 ... 14 .... 6
1990 .. Calif. .... .146 .... 0 .... 2 .... 1
....... Cleve. .... .167 .... 0 .... 0 .... 0
1991 .. Houston ... .148 .... 0 .... 2 .... 0
1992 .. Orioles ... .246 .... 0 ... 27 ... 11
1993 .. Orioles ... .284 .... 4 ... 72 ... 21
1994 .. Orioles ... .257 .... 3 ... 29 ... 20
Tot. ......... .... .249 ... 12 .. 203 ... 97