Free-agent infielder Tim Naehring is an attractive alternative for the Orioles if they can't sign shortstop Mike Bordick, and last night, Naehring met with general manager Pat Gillick for more than two hours.
But it might have been an exercise in futility. Naehring has a three-year, $10 million offer to play second base with Cleveland, a deal he may sign as soon as today. The Orioles also are just about out of the running for pitcher David Wells, who is the subject of a bidding war among the Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees and the Indians.
"The chances of Baltimore signing David are probably less than 20 percent," said Gregg Clifton, the agent for Wells, "because of what's been happening in the market and because of the high demand for David lately. I don't think they're going to be able to afford both [Jimmy] Key and David."
Gillick acknowledged at a news conference yesterday, when Key was introduced to the Baltimore media, that Wells likely will sign elsewhere. And shortly thereafter, Gillick boarded a plane to Cleveland to meet with Naehring, also represented by Clifton. The Orioles have interest in signing Naehring to play third base if they can't lure Bordick to play shortstop and move Cal Ripken to third.
"It was a very good meeting," said Clifton. "No offer was made, but we talked about a lot of things. As of right now, they're not ready to commit on going in our direction or Bordick's direction. They said they'd call us [today] with some type of potential [contract] framework."
The offer from the Indians, which includes an option for a fourth year, may be prohibitive. But signing Bordick appears to be the Orioles' preference. Gillick said yesterday that the club's next priority is acquiring a defensive player, and he talked about trying to upgrade the left side of the infield, using a third baseman and shortstop whose respective abilities are complementary.
"Cal did a good job last year, he had a good season, Gillick said. "[But] I look at the left side of the infield as a unit. We had two guys at third, B. J. Surhoff and Todd Zeile, who did a more than adequate job. But if you look at it as a unit, if you had a legitimate shortstop, Ripken could be a Gold Glove third baseman. Cal didn't have a lot of help over there, in certain aspects."
Bordick, who is seeking a three-year deal for something in the range of $8 million to $10 million, has said he won't sign with the Orioles unless he has a strong indication from Ripken that the future Hall of Famer will welcome him. As of 9 last night, Bordick and Ripken had not spoken, and there seemed to be some confusion over who is supposed to initiate the call. "I heard it was being arranged," Bordick said.
"Even if [Ripken] welcomed me with open arms, I'd still have reservations. It's easy to wonder why I'd have reservations, but Cal Ripken has played shortstop for the Baltimore Orioles for 14 years."
In other Orioles news:
The club spoke again with the agent for outfielder Shane Mack. Oakland also is interested.
The Orioles made a minor-league trade, swapping outfielder Rolo Avila to the Los Angeles Dodgers for catcher Ryan Luzinski, the son of former major-league slugger Greg Luzinski.
Gillick said that the Orioles are still searching for a backup catcher, and that he's inclined to rotate players at the designated hitter position.
Pub Date: 12/11/96