With Bonilla on hold, O's look elsewhere


The Orioles' trade talks with the New York Mets apparently have reached an impasse, and, thus far, they've been rebuffed in efforts to acquire other high-profile players.

The Orioles spent the better part of two weeks trying to acquire slugger Bobby Bonilla from the Mets, but New York general manager Joe McIlvaine and Orioles GM Roland Hemond have not talked since Monday. The last time they did talk, the two sides were entrenched: according to a source familiar with the negotiations, Hemond offered reliever Armando Benitez and center fielder Damon Buford for Bonilla, but McIlvaine wanted outfielder Alex Ochoa and Benitez.

The Orioles seem solid in their resolve to hang onto Ochoa, which could prevent any chance of a deal for Chicago Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa. An NL source says the Cubs would be willing to deal Sosa, 26, but would demand a high return; in cursory discussions, the Cubs indicated they would want Benitez and Ochoa.

But any club acquiring Sosa would assume a large risk. He began this season with five years and eight days of service time, and if the service time lost to the strike in April is restored, he would become a free agent at the end of this year.

"There's no way the Orioles would make that deal," said one major-league executive, "unless they signed the guy [at the time of the trade]."

The Orioles' brief talks with the Toronto Blue Jays about Joe Carter seem dead, as well. The Orioles want the Blue Jays to assume a sizable portion of his $6.5 million '96 salary -- likely more than the $1 million that is allowed without special approval by the commissioner's office. In addition, the Blue Jays asked about Benitez, and the Orioles weren't interested in trading a potential closer to a division rival.

The Orioles may begin searching for a second-line hitter, such as the Detroit Tigers' Kirk Gibson.

"You always look at the alternatives," said Hemond.

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