OAKLAND, Calif. -- Increasingly impatient with a four-week free fall that threatens to bury them before June, the Orioles have discussed a trade that would send second baseman Roberto Alomar and possibly first baseman Rafael Palmeiro to the New York Mets for a package including switch-hitting second baseman Carlos Baerga, club sources confirmed.
Talks have been ongoing for about a week but are not close to the critical stage, according to a club source familiar with the discussions.
The Orioles apparently would include Palmeiro if the Mets part with first baseman John Olerud and pitcher Dave Mlicki. However, Palmeiro's contract includes a no-trade provision prohibiting a trade to the Mets without his permission.
Manager Ray Miller has become peeved recently over the failure of his team to mesh timely hitting with consistent pitching. Though Palmeiro leads the team with 10 home runs and 36 RBIs, he has struggled in clutch situations. The team also is pessimistic about its chances of re-signing the Gold Glove fielder, given his stated desire for a five-year deal worth more than $8 million a season.
Orioles majority owner Peter Angelos has had preliminary discussions with agents for Palmeiro and Alomar but has yet to make an offer to either.
"I'm sure that would be the logical thing to do," Palmeiro said of a trade possibility. "But I still believe Peter Angelos has a strong interest in signing me and Robbie. I think we would both like to stay and play here if something could be worked out."
Palmeiro and Alomar are among 12 Orioles eligible for free agency after this season. Baerga also is eligible for free agency next winter; Olerud is signed through next season.
Baerga will make $4.5 million this year, the final installment of a six-year, $21.4 million deal signed with the Cleveland Indians in 1993. Olerud signed a two-year, $8 million deal with the Mets before this season. Offered a third year, the left-handed hitter declined, saying he preferred a shorter term as motivation.
Baerga, 29, is batting .267 with three home runs and 20 RBIs in 146 at-bats covering 42 games in 1998. He drove in more than 100 runs in 1992 and 1993 and batted over .300 in four of his first five full major-league seasons. However, persistent questions surrounding his desire and off-field habits contributed to the Indians' dealing him to the Mets during the 1996 season. He drove in 52 runs in 1997 in 133 games.
Olerud, also 29, is batting .352, eighth-best in the National League. He ranked third in the league with a .435 on-base average going into yesterday.
He hit .294 with 22 home runs and 102 RBIs for the Mets last season, but his career averages are 16 home runs and 71 RBIs entering this season. He has five homers and 23 RBIs this year to go with his .352 batting average. Only twice in eight full seasons has he topped 100 RBIs in a season.
Mlicki, 29, has made 112 ap- pearances with the Mets the past three seasons -- 66 starts -- and has compiled a 23-26 record with a 3.98 ERA. He was 8-12 with a 4.00 ERA in 1997.
General manager Pat Gillick confirmed last week that the Orioles are shopping for help, which a club official described as someone who is left-handed hitting, preferably with speed.
Alomar will earn $6 million this season, the last of a three-year deal he signed as a free agent before the 1996 season. Palmeiro will earn $4.85 million in base salary plus a prorated share of a signing bonus he received as a free agent in December 1985. Total compensation comes to $7.1 million.
Palmeiro restructured his no-trade clause before this season specifically to restrict the chance of his being traded. Besides the Mets, he listed the Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers and Florida Marlins among the places he would not play. At the time, the club had engaged the Red Sox in discussions for first baseman Mo Vaughn, whose contract also expires after this season.
"I like playing in Baltimore. I'd like to stay here," Palmeiro said.
Asked about the structure of his no-trade clause, he quipped, "Put two and two together."
Alomar's contract contains no such provision.
While Angelos is believed more interested in retaining the second baseman than Palmeiro, Alomar is known to be intrigued playing alongside his brother, Sandy, in Cleveland.
"I don't know what's going to happen," he said before last night's game. "I can only play. I'm not the general manager."
Pub Date: 5/24/98