Agent: Erickson open to a trade; O's service time confirmed, but it isn't 'a roadblock'


BOSTON - An agent for Orioles pitcher Scott Erickson maintains his client would accept a trade "under the right circumstances" after attaining enough service time Monday to veto any deal.

Jeff Borris, president of Beverly Hills Sports Council, said yesterday that Erickson is open to a trade that would take him to a contending team little more than two seasons after he became the first Orioles pitcher to sign a five-year contract.

"I think that Scotty is a competitor and he wants to win more than anything else," Borris said. "People want to say players play for the money. Scotty has made a considerable amount of money. He's won once already in Minnesota. He's more proud of that than anything else in his career. If he can recapture that, great. Nobody likes to lose."

Erickson came to the Orioles through a trade with the Twins during the strike-shortened 1995 season. Different interpretations of the service time Erickson accrued that season led to uncertainty of his status.

The Orioles were whipsawed through no fault of their own. After first hearing that Erickson would gain veto power over any deal at midnight, a subsequent advisory from Major League Baseball said he would have to wait until early next month.

Threatened with the possibility of a grievance filed on Erickson's behalf by the players association, Major League Baseball notified the Orioles last Monday that their No. 2 starter did indeed possess the 10 years of American League service and five years with the same team necessary to block any trade. Notification came only hours before the midnight deadline and trade discussions with several teams crumbled, according to a club source.

Major League Baseball defines a season as 172 days, though it typically extends 182-184 days. Since Erickson was traded during the '95 season, one interpretation held that he could not be credited with the season's final 10 days, which were spent with the Orioles. A players association official said yesterday that Erickson represented the first case in at least 15 years to require such a ruling.

Until midnight Monday, the Orioles could deal Erickson to any team except the those specified in a partial no-trade clause included in the five-year, $32 million contract extension he signed in May 1998. The Orioles must now get written consent from Erickson to complete a deal. Such permission typically commands a cash buyout from the incumbent team or a contract renegotiation with the new club.

Borris described Erickson's newfound veto power as "just a technicality," adding, "There are certain situations he would consider exploring. It shouldn't be considered a roadblock."

Erickson's contract is considered a relative bargain for a pitcher who has won at least 15 games each of the past three seasons. However, the remaining $21.7 million also represents a moderate risk for a pitcher who has struggled since undergoing March 3 arthroscopic elbow surgery. Erickson enters tomorrow's start in Boston at 3-5 with a 7.36 ERA. He recently has struggled with control and was punished in last Friday's 8-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners. Orioles vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift negotiated with the Red Sox, Atlanta Braves and New York Mets on Monday while awaiting a final MLB ruling on Erickson's status.

An industry source said yesterday that a deal with the Braves involving left-hander Bruce Chen once appeared imminent. The Red Sox balked at Thrift's request for one of their prized pitching prospects, Tomokazu Ohka and Sun-Woo Kim.

Borris said the current climate makes "anything possible at any time" and is prepared to act on the matter quickly.

"There are plenty of factors involved: financial considerations, team, geography, role, chances of winning," Borris said. "There are some teams he wouldn't want to go to at all. It would depend."

Erickson brushed off questions before last night's game; however, the Stateline, Nev., resident previously stated a desire to finish his career in nearby San Francisco. Borris confirmed that the team's recent and apparent future direction may facilitate approval of a trade.

"I've always believed any player is basically tradable at any time under certain circumstances," Borris said. "If Babe Ruth played for more than one team, Scotty can play for more than one team."

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