Yesterday's hiring of Frank Wren as Orioles general manager came as little surprise to many within the organization. However, how Wren intends to fortify a team that dramatically underachieved last season for various reasons remains a point of concern to those fearful of a razed clubhouse.
"The only thing I know about Frank Wren is he helped dismantle the Marlins," said reliever Jesse Orosco, half-joking and half-unsure.
As assistant to Florida Marlins general manager Dave Dombrowski, Wren participated in one of the most successfully grandiose building projects as the Marlins won a world championship in just their seventh season. Likewise, he helped carry out a purge ordered by an ownership appalled by huge financial losses.
"The only thing I'm worried about is what happens to our club," said Orosco. "We had a veteran team last year and things didn't work out because of injuries. It might scare Peter [Angelos] from trying again. Whether he wants to take a chance or not [on a championship push], you need veterans. Regardless of what happens, there will be veterans here. But there are also guys we need bad like B. J. [Surhoff] and Eric [Davis]."
Surhoff and Davis are only two of nine potential free agents on the Orioles. Angelos has said both outfielders would be retained, but neither agreed to an extension during the season. It now falls to Wren to include them in the organizational blueprint.
"I think that Frank has a very open mind," said chief operating officer Joe Foss, one of the few privy to Wren's worldview. "Players right now are understandably anxious about where they'll play next year. I see the number of free agents as a plus and not a minus for the Orioles. It gives us the opportunity to make changes if we feel appropriate and to bring back some players who fit the equation."
Asked about a possible renovation, Orosco said, "It would concern me at my stage. I hope nothing like that happens. I still hope we make a run for it. It was an injury-prone year. It was an off year. I hope it doesn't go the other way."
Orosco's fears reflect those of many within the game's oldest clubhouse. At various times last season, several veterans, including Cal Ripken, expressed uncertainty about the fallout of 1998.
Even at 41, Orosco has invested much in the franchise's future.
He is signed through 2000 with a club option for 2001. Much of his decision to return was predicated on the belief that the Orioles will never unilaterally disarm.
"We need a general manager to get the ball rolling and start something early," said Orosco. "I think they need to let guys know whether they're interested."
Rafael Palmeiro and Alan Mills filed for free agency yesterday, and others are expected to soon follow. While Wren says he intends to contact the representatives for the club's eligible free agents, he first intends to solicit the opinion of manager Ray Miller and his staff early next week. Even before Wren's hiring the Orioles planned to get younger, faster and more durable.
"We're going to need a solid left-handed starter," said Orosco of a need prescribed by the previous front-office regime. "If they want to go for a closer, they need to do that and make a decision on Armando [Benitez]. There are some major decisions to be made that you can only guess at right now."
Pub Date: 10/24/98