Orioles consider 3 years for Wells Free-agent scarcity, offers from other teams lead to change of heart


Extremely thin in starting pitching and with few attractive free-agent options, the Orioles took a necessary step toward re-signing left-hander David Wells yesterday.

Orioles general manager Pat Gillick informed Wells' agent that the club would consider giving the pitcher a three-year contract. Before yesterday, the Orioles were only willing to give Wells a two-year deal.

Two factors probably nudged Gillick into the concession: First, the free-agent market is weak in starting pitchers, beyond the outrageously expensive Alex Fernandez or the virtually unsignable Roger Clemens. Secondly, Wells has a three-year, $12 million offer from the Toronto Blue Jays and likely has a three-year offer forthcoming from the Yankees.

L Gillick said, "We would consider going three years for him."

Wells' agent, Gregg Clifton, said, "We chatted about David [yesterday], and they said they would go back and think about making a three-year proposal of some type."

The Orioles offered Wells arbitration yesterday, a procedural move ensuring compensation, in the form of a first-round draft pick, if Wells signs elsewhere. Wells has until Dec. 19 to reject the Orioles' arbitration offer -- which he is expected to do -- and the Orioles have until Jan. 8 to negotiate with Wells.

In other Orioles news:

Moving Cal Ripken to third and signing free-agent shortstop Mike Bordick apparently is Plan A for the Orioles. Plan B might be leaving Ripken at short and signing third baseman Tim Naehring. Gillick again called Naehring's agent -- Clifton -- yesterday to express interest.

"They inquired where we are with other teams and they said they'd give Tim strong consideration," said Clifton, "if they decided to go that route."

Orioles manager Davey Johnson said: "Cal's not going to move unless we can get somebody as good as Cal is, and we can upgrade [our defense]. Say what you want, but Cal had a good year and he's an All-Star shortstop."

Their interest in center fielder Darryl Hamilton somewhat stunted by his contract demands (a three-year deal for around $11 million), the Orioles seemed to be focusing more on outfielder Shane Mack, who has spent the last two seasons in Japan.

"We talked for some time about Shane [with the Orioles]," said Eric Goldschmidt, Mack's agent. "We talked about some basic parameters, but no offer was made. Shane has expressed a desire to play center field for the Orioles."

Gillick said the Orioles have had several trade talks with the Chicago White Sox, refusing to discuss the subject of discussions. However, it is widely known the White Sox have been shopping left fielder Tony Phillips, one of the game's premier leadoff hitters, since signing Albert Belle. Phillips, 37, scored 119 runs and accumulated a .404 on-base average last season.

The proposed labor deal, expected to be ratified today by the players association, could allow reliever Jesse Orosco another chance at free agency, in spite of his contract agreement with the Orioles. Orosco's agent said he asked the Orioles for a "modest" sum of money, perhaps in the neighborhood of $50,000, to bypass free agency and honor his past agreement. Gillick confirmed the Orioles have rejected the request. "We don't think Jesse is going anywhere," Gillick said.

Jeffrey Hammonds will play winter ball in Puerto Rico, after a discussion between the Orioles and his agent, Jeffrey Moorad.

The Orioles may pursue some sort of grievance with the Player Relations Committee, seeking compensation for free-agent third baseman Todd Zeile. Reportedly, the Dodgers have agreed to terms with Zeile, and Orioles officials believe the only factor precluding an announcement is the Dodgers' desire to avoid compensation.

Pub Date: 12/05/96

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