The Baltimore Orioles appear closer than ever to acquiring San Diego Padres second baseman Alan Wiggins, officials from both teams said this evening.
But both clubs denied that the deal had been completed, as had been reported earlier in the day.
"I heard the report and I called the owner (Edward Bennett Williams) this afternoon and he said that nothing had been done," said Orioles Manager Earl Weaver before tonight's game in Yankee Stadium. "But it's my understanding that it's closer now than it's ever been."
San Diego General Manager Jack McKeon said, "We're still talking. It's close, but nothing is finalized. Probably, nothing will happen today."
Baltimore would send San Diego two minor-league players, including first baseman Jim Traber, 23, who is recuperating from knee surgery. The Orioles, if the deal became final, would be responsible for Wiggins' four-year guaranteed salary of $2.8 million.
However, according to reports, Wiggins would forfeit one-third of his salary if he had a relapse of drug problems. San Diego would pick up a substantial portion of his salary if a relapse occurred in Wiggins' first or second year with Baltimore.
"There's a meeting of the minds between the two clubs, but there are other people who had to approve the deal," Ballard Smith, the Padres' president, said today.
Since the deal would come after the June 15 trading deadline, it would have to be approved by the American and National league offices and the commissioner's office. Because of the possibility of Wiggins' losing guaranteed salary, the Major League Players Association also would get involved.
The Orioles have two veteran second basemen -- Rich Dauer and Lenn Sakata -- who have struggled all season to bat above .200. As a result, the team has been trying to acquire an everyday second baseman who can hit, and possibly lead off.
Wiggins, 27, is a three-year veteran who batted leadoff, hit .258 and stole 70 bases last year for the San Diego Padres. But after he failed to show up for a game April 25 this season, due to a second problem related to drugs, San Diego management said Wiggins would never play there again.
The Orioles have been pursuing Wiggins ever since he was cleared to play upon completing a drug rehabilitation program last month. But Baltimore and San Diego were unable to reach an agreement, partly because of Wiggins' salary and his history of drug-related problems.
Wiggins is on a rehabilitation assignment with the Las Vegas Stars, a minor league team in the Class AAA Pacific Coast League. As a designated hiter Tuesday night, he had one hit in four at bats, and scored a run in his team's 8-5 loss.
When asked what he thought about the probability of being traded, Wiggins said, "I just keep reading the papers."
The Yankees were one of the clubs that expressed interest in acquiring Wiggins, a .266 career hitter who has little power (four career home runs, 71 runs batted in).