O's Can't Make a Move, On or Off the Field
Monday, August 1, 2005
BALTIMORE, July 31 -- They are in limbo now, a team not in contention but not buried quite yet in the standings either. On the day of the trading deadline, the Baltimore Orioles, 9-4 losers against the Chicago White Sox on Sunday night, did not make a transaction. The one move they tried to make, however, may have spoken loudly about what they thought of their chances of making it to the postseason.
According to two baseball sources, the Orioles had serious discussions with at least two teams about trading all-star closer B. J. Ryan. He will be a free agent next year and will be in position to get a hefty raise.
In return, the Orioles -- eight games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox in the American League East and seven games back of the wild-card leading Oakland Athletics -- asked for a package of prospects.
"The [teams] turned them down because [the Orioles couldn't decide] who the great prospects were that they wanted," one source said.
That resulted in a slow trade-deadline day in Baltimore's executive offices.
"There was very little energy there," a source close to the Orioles said.
Losers of 13 of the past 15 games, Baltimore did not try to significantly improve the team, which was outclassed on national television on Sunday by the White Sox. Eli Marrero, a journeyman utility outfielder, and Eric Byrnes, a moderate upgrade in the outfield, were the only players acquired in trades during the season.
"I got the sense in talking to general managers, they explored things, like we did, but things just didn't get done," Jim Beattie, the Orioles' executive vice president, said. "It didn't really go down to the wire for us. We had a few ideas that we floated around and we didn't get the reception that we [looked] for either."
With Jorge Julio and Chris Ray in the bullpen, the Orioles thought they could lose Ryan, who will likely command top dollar on the free agent market next season. Ryan, 29, should get a contract similar to the three-year, $21 million deal signed by former Oriole Armando Benitez this offseason.
"I could see that as a good estimate," an American League executive said. "Ordinarily, I would say that is a bit high, but I think teams will be out there with some available money and a pretty average free agent class. As a result, I think good players will attract a good amount of interest."
It would not be surprising to see Ryan land with either the Red Sox or New York Yankees, two rich teams with bullpen needs. One baseball source said the Orioles couldn't seem to make up their minds on what they wanted for Ryan.
"Sometimes, if you ask for too much, you aren't going to make the deal," the source said. "That's why they haven't done anything for three years."
It is a precarious time for the Orioles. One baseball source said that it appears to be a hectic time in the organization as Manager Lee Mazzilli, Beattie and Vice President of Baseball Operations Mike Flanagan are all in the last year of their contracts. None is assured of returning next season. The source close to the team didn't disagree that the uncertain situation has had an affect on the front office's performance.
"That's how we're all acting," said the Orioles source.
But the source argued the possible Ryan trade did not mean the Orioles were giving up on the season. Instead they believed Ray or Julio could assume the closer's duties. But Ray is only 23 and has pitched 20 2/3 innings in the majors and Baltimore had thought so little of Julio they demoted him from the closer's role in spring training.
"That particular move doesn't have to do with giving up on next year," the Orioles source said. "That had to have been a win-win on both sides. We weren't trying to rip anybody off. We wanted equal value."
Baltimore was quickly disposed of by the White Sox on Sunday. Chicago scored eight runs against starter Rodrigo Lopez in just 1 1/3 innings. Baltimore will now likely have to look to the minors for pitching help. Eric DuBose, who was pulled prior to his start on Saturday for Class AA Bowie, might be an option. Perhaps on this night, the Orioles made it clear they are no longer contenders.