The agent for Fernandez, released Sunday by the Orioles, said yesterday that while several clubs had inquired about his client, the Reds and Phillies clearly were the front-runners.
"Sid wants to pitch in the National League again, and he likes the fact that the Phillies and Reds are both in contention," said Fernandez's agent, Tom Selakovich, who is based in St. Charles, Ill. "On the one hand, he likes Davey Johnson [the Reds' manager, who managed Fernandez with the Mets], but he's also close with Lenny Dykstra."
According to Selakovich, who said he spoke with Phillies GM Lee Thomas and Reds GM Jim Bowden earlier in the day, both clubs assured him that Fernandez would move immediately into the rotation.
"Sure, we have some interest," Thomas said yesterday. "At this point, we're interested in anyone who can throw. We're probably one of a number of clubs that have interest, but we can't do anything until Thursday."
Because Fernandez, 32, must wait until a 72-hour waiver period has expired, he is prevented from signing with any club until Thursday at 2 p.m.
"At that point, we'll look at our options, and Sid will make a decision," Selakovich said. "There are a lot of other clubs interested, but at this point Sid likes Philly and Cincinnati best."
The agent negotiated a buyout with the Orioles on the remainder of Fernandez's contract; he was owed about $1 million more this season and $3 million in 1996. Selakovich did not reveal the amount of the buyout.
However, in the unlikely event the pitcher was claimed on waivers, that buyout would be nullified and the remainder of the contract, plus a $4.5 million performance-based option for '97, would be assumed by his new club.
"We don't expect any team to pick up that contract, but Sid is just eager to get signed on with another club and start pitching again," Selakovich said.
If the Phils sign Fernandez, probably for a salary at or close to the big-league minimum of $109,000, he would move into the fifth spot in their rotation in place of injured left-hander David West.
"If he throws like he can, it's going to be a good signing," Phillies second baseman Mickey Morandini said yesterday at the All-Star Game in Arlington, Texas. "When he's on, he's got a very explosive fastball, and can be a very dominating pitcher. If he can stay healthy, he can help us."
Selakovich said that the Orioles and Phillies were close to a trade involving Fernandez on Friday.
When that fell through, Orioles officials decided to release him.
Fernandez was 0-4 with a 7.39 ERA in 1995 after going 6-6 with a 5.15 ERA last year.
He has a career record of 104-89 and an ERA of 3.35.