The Oakland Athletics sent right-hander Tim Hudson to the Atlanta Braves yesterday for three players after failing to work out a deal with the Orioles, who had engaged in talks with general manager Billy Beane during the winter meetings.
Beane wanted the Orioles to relinquish young pitchers Erik Bedard, John Maine and Hayden Penn in exchange for Hudson, who can become a free agent after next season. But a snag developed when the Orioles, uninterested in a one-year rental, weren't granted permission to negotiate an extension.
The Braves had no such concerns, parting with pitchers Juan Cruz and Dan Meyer, and outfielder Charles Thomas. They've added Hudson, 29, to a rotation that includes former closer John Smoltz, but is minus Russ Ortiz, Jaret Wright and Paul Byrd.
Hudson is 92-39 with a 3.30 ERA in 183 career starts, and his 81 wins during the past five years are tied for the most among American League pitchers. The Georgia native had thrown 200 or more innings in four straight seasons before a sore hip limited his effectiveness this summer.
Once Hudson declared a March 1 deadline for long-term negotiations, he drew interest from a handful of clubs that also included the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.
Yesterday's trade might not have been consummated if the Athletics hadn't acquired Keith Ginter from the Milwaukee Brewers a day earlier. They no longer were demanding Braves second baseman Marcus Giles, a favorite of manager Bobby Cox's.
The next step for the Braves is to lock up Hudson beyond 2005. He'll earn $6.75 million next year.
"I always wondered how it would be to put on a Braves uniform and play in Atlanta," Hudson said. "Now I get to see."
Less clear is where the Orioles go from here.
They are intrigued by Florida pitcher A.J. Burnett, but the Marlins didn't want to trade him unless they could get Hudson in a three-way deal. Free agents Eric Milton and Derek Lowe remain on the market, but the Orioles won't significantly overspend simply to make a move.
"We've gone into it that if we can improve the front-line pitching, we're going after certain guys to do that, both in the free-agent market and trade market," said team executive Jim Beattie. "We don't feel like we want to step down and still have to pay the type of dollars that are out there in the free-agent market. We've gone through a little bit of the growing pains with some of our young guys, and we think some of our young guys can be as good as, or better than, some of those guys who might still be out there.
"We're looking for somebody who can significantly help the club both in pitching and in the field, and if we can end up with one or two of those guys, it's going to be worth all the waiting and the negotiations. And if we don't, then our sense is that we're going to compete with the guys who we feel are going to make an improvement over what they did last year. We're going to make a good effort to find the right guys. Not necessarily every guy is the right fit for us."
After losing first baseman Richie Sexson to the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday, the Orioles shed one challenger to Carlos Delgado yesterday when the Mariners agreed to terms with former Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Adrian Beltre on a five-year deal worth about $64 million, pending the results of a physical examination. The signing will take them out of the running for Delgado, with Sexson moving to first instead of playing left field.
But the New York Mets reportedly have offered Delgado a four-year deal worth $50 million to $55 million, making them the favorites to sign the first baseman.
Asked about negotiations with Delgado's agent, David Sloane, Beattie said: "We're still talking. We don't talk every day. He checks in; I check in. We just kind of talk and see where things are going. We both know about where we stand at this point. It's just going to take time - for us anyway, on our part."
Beattie and vice president Mike Flanagan continued to work the phones yesterday, undeterred by the flurry of recent activity among other teams.
"We always think [their discussions] are significant ones, but there's nothing that I would say is necessarily imminent," Beattie said. "We pretty much are continuing to talk with free agents and we have a few options for potential trades."
Looking for a backup catcher, the Orioles could explore the possibility of signing A.J. Pierzynski, who was released this week by the San Francisco Giants.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.