Hoping to bolster their offense at the non-waiver trade deadline for both the present and the near future, the Orioles have discussed sending starter Rodrigo Lopez to the Philadelphia Phillies for one of their two expensive outfielders, Bobby Abreu or Pat Burrell.
According to several industry sources, the Phillies would be willing to accept Lopez and perhaps another player, likely a mid-level prospect, if the Orioles were to pay a significant portion of one of the outstanding contracts.
Each deal has its own set of hurdles, however, so one high-ranking club official called any pending move for the Phillies sluggers "unlikely."
Abreu, a 32-year-old right fielder and two-time All-Star, is in the third season of a five-year, $64 million deal. He is making $13 million this year, with $15 million due in 2007 and a $16 million club option in 2008 ($2 million buyout).
One club source said that privately Abreu has shown a willingness to waive his no-trade clause and play here, in part because of his close relationship with Orioles third baseman and fellow Venezuelan Melvin Mora. Another source, however, said the club has received no indication that the left-handed-hitting Abreu would waive the clause -- especially without receiving a contract extension or a guarantee on the 2008 option.
Still, Orioles officials have always liked Abreu and one source speculated the club would be willing to pay him an eight-figure salary through the duration of his contract. Abreu was batting .285 with eight homers and 60 RBIs going into yesterday. His agent, Peter Greenberg, could not be reached for comment.
Burrell, a 29-year-old left fielder and former first overall pick, is in the middle of a heavily backloaded six-year, $50 million deal that expires in 2008. He is owed about $32 million, and one team source said the Orioles would not be willing to pick up much of it. Even if they did, it may not matter. Burrell has expressed no interest in waiving his clause to come here, the source said, so the discussions involving him have subsided.
Burrell's agent, Greg Genske, was in Baltimore yesterday, but did not meet with Orioles officials. He could not be reached for comment.
With Philadelphia seemingly on the back burner, the Orioles are continuing to have talks involving Lopez with as many as nine other clubs, the source said, including the New York Mets, Arizona Diamondbacks, St. Louis Cardinals, San Diego Padres, Texas Rangers and New York Yankees.
One Orioles major league scout has followed the NL Central-leading Cardinals for the past couple of weeks. Lopez, 30, has struggled most of this year, compiling a 6-10 record and a 6.44 ERA. But he has won 14 or more games in three of his past four seasons and has shown some flashes of his former self -- like on Sunday when he pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings against the Rangers.
He has never been the subject of trade rumors before, but Lopez said he watched closely in 2003 when his fellow rotation-mate Sidney Ponson was dealt.
"I've been through it before, but I have never been the one who is involved," Lopez said. "It is kind of weird."
He said it seems like each day there is a different rumor, but the mild-mannered Lopez, who is making $3.75 million and has one more year of arbitration before becoming a free agent after the 2007 season, said he is trying to not let it bother him.
"I have talked to my people. They are pretty calm, the same as me, and there is nothing we can do about it," Lopez said. "Right now my mind is concentrating on pitching Saturday at Tampa Bay."
With less than two weeks to go until the July 31 non-waiver deadline, the trade talk is becoming increasingly frenzied, said club executive vice president Mike Flanagan and vice president Jim Duquette.
"There have been a lot more phone calls," Flanagan said. "The volume has gone up quite a bit in the past couple of days."
In particular, teams are calling about pitchers Erik Bedard, Kris Benson and LaTroy Hawkins and veteran infielder-outfielder Jeff Conine, among others.
A club source reiterated that Bedard is not available and that it would have to be "floored" to deal Benson. Trading shortstop Miguel Tejada also is unlikely because no team appears willing to match the asking price of a top-tier pitcher and one or two high-level prospects for the four-time All-Star.