The Orioles aren't quite ready to give up on this season and start dumping players. But as Cal Ripken knows, they're in the mood for change and Bobby Bonilla could be the next player affected.
According to a National League source, the Orioles have talked to San Francisco about swapping Bonilla to the Giants for catcher Kirt Manwaring and pitcher Mark Leiter, with other players involved in the deal. Bonilla would play first base and likely bat fifth for the Giants, providing some support for No. 3 hitter Barry Bonds and cleanup man Matt Williams.
Leiter, a 33-year-old right-handed pitcher who began his pro career in the Orioles' system in 1983 and was released in 1988 after missing three seasons with arm trouble, is coming off a 1995 season in which he went 10-12 with a 3.82. He has slumped this year, now 4-8 with a 5.04 ERA, with 132 hits and 43 walks allowed in 119 2/3 innings. Manwaring, 30, is batting .236 with one homer and 13 RBIs in 127 at-bats.
Leiter likely would step into the rotation, and Manwaring would take over from Chris Hoiles as the everyday catcher. The deal is comparable financially, with Leiter making $1.5 million, Manwaring $1.875 million, and Bonilla $4.6 million.
The Orioles also have talked to the San Diego Padres and Chicago Cubs about Bonilla. The Padres could have interest in Bonilla as a replacement for right fielder Tony Gwynn, out with an Achilles' tendon injury; Gwynn has said he may be out for the year. The Padres have minor-league prospects to offer in return.
According to a major-league executive, the Orioles' decision to deal Bonilla for veterans (such as Leiter and Manwaring) or for young players (like the Padres could provide) could be determined by how the Orioles play in the next 10 days.
If the Orioles show improvement with their new alignment of Manny Alexander at short, Ripken at third and B. J. Surhoff in the outfield and make up some ground in the standings, the Orioles could be more inclined toward a lateral move, dealing Bonilla for veterans who could augment the team now.
However, if the Orioles fade and lose ground in the standings, general manager Pat Gillick may prefer to deal for prospects rather than veterans.
But it is clear the front office has adopted a new stance since the top-level meeting Sunday morning in the aftermath of the Yankees' doubleheader sweep, a meeting that included owner Peter Angelos, Orioles manager Davey Johnson, Gillick (by telephone) and assistant general manager Kevin Malone.
Before, the Orioles were inclined to stick with the players they had. Now they're ready to listen to any and all offers.
Should they fall out of the wild-card race, they could have a possible deal develop with Seattle: The Mariners are interested in left-hander David Wells, and the Orioles have long been interested in catcher Chris Widger, who is playing in Triple-A now.
The NL source indicated the Giants wanted to deal Manwaring for reliever Alan Mills during the past week. However, the Orioles were reluctant to make that swap, and any immediate possibility of a deal ended when Roger McDowell went on the disabled list with shoulder soreness.
Pub Date: 7/17/96