Baltimore Orioles outfielder Larry Sheets, unable to reach agreement on a contract for 1988, was among more than 100 players who filed for salary arbitration hours before Friday's midnight deadline.

He led the Orioles in both batting average (.316) and homers (31) in '87, while earning $145,000. He is believed to want $450,000 and reportedly was close to an agreement.

The two sides can continue to negotiate, but, if the matter goes to arbitration, each side will submit an offer to an independent arbitrator.

By the deadline, 104 players, including George Bell, had filed for arbitration. Another 16 had reached agreements with their former teams.

"I don't look at this as being important," Sheets said. "It's finally nice to have the leverage in my favor, and I'm using it to get what I think is fair. That's why I played these three years. You used to need just two years, but the last basic agreement changed that. This still doesn't mean it'll go to arbitration, but it's a feeling of security."

Shortstop Jackie Gutierrez was the only other Oriole eligible for arbitration, but he agreed to a one-year deal for $125,000 yesterday.

Frank Viola, 17-10 last season, agreed to a two-year $2.9 million contract with the Twins. Other pitchers agreeing to one-year contracts: were Ken Dayley of the St. Louis Cardinals ($610,000), Ted Power of the Kansas City Royals ($575,000), Oil Can Boyd of the Boston Red Sox ($550,000), Andy McGaffigan of the Montreal Expos ($500,000), Andy Hawkins of the San Diego Padres ($453,000), Gene Nelson of the Oakland Athletics ($450,000), Ken Schrom of the Cleveland Indians ($380,000) and Brad Havens of the Los Angeles Dodgers ($185,000).

Others agreeing were outfielder Gary Pettis of the Detroit Tigers ($400,000), catcher Mike Fitzgerald of Montreal ($335,000), outfielder Danny Heep of Los Angeles ($300,000), catcher Rick Cerone of the New York Yankees ($300,000), outfielder Marvell Wynne of San Diego ($255,000) and infielder Len Matuszek of Los Angeles ($215,000).

Among others filing for arbitration: Dwight Gooden and Howard Johnson of the Mets; Andre Dawson of the Cubs; Eric Davis and John Franco of the Reds; Greg Gagne, Kirby Puckett and Dan Gladden of the Twins; Vince Coleman of the Cardinals; Julio Franco of the Indians; Ted Higuera and Rob Deer of the Brewers; Tony Fernandez and Tom Henke of the Blue Jays; Darrell Evans of the Tigers, and Mark Langston of the Mariners.