Bill Ripken's second tenure with the Orioles likely came to an end last night when the club declined to offer the utility man salary arbitration.
By not offering arbitration to Ripken and three other free agents, the Orioles all but ensured they will be elsewhere next season.
The Orioles had until midnight last night to offer arbitration to Ripken, Todd Zeile, Mike Devereaux and Roger McDowell or lose the right to negotiate with the players until May 1.
The Orioles did offer arbitration to outfielder Pete Incaviglia last night and could agree on a contract soon. Last week the team offered arbitration to left-handed starter David Wells, and the Orioles will receive a first-round draft pick if he signs with another club. They receive no compensation if Ripken and the other non-arbitrated players sign elsewhere.
Zeile's right-handed bat balanced the lineup last season, but he has all but agreed to terms with the Los Angeles Dodgers. McDowell, 35, is rehabilitating from major shoulder surgery and Devereaux, in his second stint with the team, did not fit into outfield plans.
Ripken, who turns 32 next week, was signed to a minor-league contract last winter and played very sparingly. Ripken, an Oriole from 1987-1992, hit .230 in 135 at-bats in 1996, most of which came when B. J. Surhoff was on the disabled list.
Tony Fernandez and former Oriole Mark McLemore are among players the team is considering to fill Ripken's role next season.
"We decided to go in another direction," assistant general manager Kevin Malone said from the winter meetings in Boston.
Ripken spent 1993 and 1994 with the Texas Rangers, and 1995 in Triple-A. Ripken said he already has heard offers from other teams, some of which seem promising, but he expected to be back with his hometown team.
"It came as quite a surprise, to be truthful," Ripken said from his Fork home. "I don't know what more I could have done last year in the role I was in. I sat for 2 1/2 weeks at times, then went out and did some things to help us win some games. I just assumed I would be back. I'd rather be here than anywhere else, but obviously that's not in the cards."
The Orioles would like to keep Wells, 33, and are expected to meet with his agent in Boston today. If they do not talk today, agent Gregg Clifton said he may visit Baltimore tomorrow to chat about Wells and third baseman Tim Naehring.
Clifton said he anticipates a counter-proposal from the Toronto Blue Jays today on Wells for three years worth between $13 million and $13.5 million.
The New York Yankees also are expected to make an offer for Wells soon, and are interested in Naehring, too.
Pub Date: 12/08/96