The Baltimore Orioles and the New York Yankees today upped the stakes considerably in the American League East race. The Orioles ended weeks of haggling and completed an eagerly awaited trade with the New York Mets for slugging outfielder-third baseman Bobby Bonilla, answering the Yankees' acquisitions of reigning AL Cy Young Award winner David Cone and outfielder Ruben Sierra earlier in the day.

The 32-year-old Bonilla gives the Orioles the impact hitter they felt they needed to compete with the first-place Boston Red Sox and the resurgent Yankees down the stretch in the AL East. The deal was completed this evening after the Orioles finally relented and agreed to part with prized minor league outfielder Alex Ochoa. The Orioles received Bonilla and a player to be named -- team sources said they'll be able to pick from a list of Class AAA pitchers -- in exchange for Ochoa and fellow Class AAA Rochester outfielder Damon Buford.

"We're pleased we were able to complete the deal," Orioles majority owner Peter Angelos said. "We think the move improves the team {and} improves our chances of winning the division. We had to make this move for the fans who support our team in such an extraordinary way. We couldn't sit still."

Bonilla said he plans to be in uniform for Saturday's game against the Chicago White Sox at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Orioles officials said Bonilla will play right field, and he almost certainly will be penciled into the cleanup spot in the's batting order behind Rafael Palmeiro and in front of Cal Ripken or Harold Baines.

"I'm pretty excited about the whole thing," Bonilla said by telephone tonight. "Being able to participate in a pennant race -- that's what you think about and dream about as a kid. . . . I've been given a chance to go to a great facility and a great organization. I have a smile on my face right now.

"You have such wonderful leaders there already in Cal and Palmeiro and Baines, all I can do is complement that. . . . It's nice they wanted me in Baltimore."

Bonilla hit .325 with 18 home runs and 53 RBI in 80 games for the Mets this season. The switch hitter has averaged 21 homers and 83 RBI per season in a 10-year major league career with the White Sox, Pittsburgh Pirates and Mets.

The Orioles will have to pick up about $1.3 million of Bonilla's $4.6 million salary for 1995. He has one year remaining on his contract, at approximately $4.5 million for '96. The Orioles will not have to be responsible for the $1.5 million endorsement guarantee in Bonilla's contract.

"It's difficult to trade two talented young outfielders," Orioles General Manager Roland Hemond said. "But we feel we strengthened our ballclub. . . . He fit the bill for what we were looking for. He's a very established, professional hitter."

The Orioles' talks with the Mets had stalled because Baltimore staunchly had been refusing to part with Ochoa, and the Orioles were exploring the possibility of trading for the Chicago Cubs' Sammy Sosa instead. The Orioles' minor league talent evaluators believed that Ochoa would be ready for the big leagues next season and that he'd be a star. The Orioles, however, spent the past few days scouting Ochoa and rethinking matters, and agreed to the swap when the Mets stopped asking for both Ochoa and hard-throwing young reliever Armando Benitez.

The Orioles tonight optioned reliever Joe Borowski back to Class AAA Rochester to make room on their roster for Bonilla.

The Yankees (41-42), who dropped into third place in the AL East by losing to the Minnesota Twins tonight, made the day's first moves. New York dealt minor league pitchers Marty Janzen, Jason Jarvis and Mike Gordon to the Toronto Blue Jays for Cone. And, in a swap of each team's biggest headache, the Yankees sent Danny Tartabull to the Oakland Athletics for Sierra and Class A pitcher Jason Beverlin.

"That," injured Orioles pitcher Ben McDonald said before his club traded for Bonilla, "was a real power move there."

Cone, 32, was 9-6 with a 3.38 earned run average for the Blue Jays after being acquired by Toronto in a spring training deal with the Kansas City Royals. He spent his first five full major league seasons in New York with the Mets.

Tartabull had been criticized publicly by Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, and Sierra had been assailed by A's Manager Tony La Russa -- who called the outfielder "the village idiot" earlier this season. CAPTION: BOBBY BONILLA'S CAREER STATISTICS Regular Season Year Team


H HR RBI Avg 1986 White Sox-Pirates 426 55 109 3 43 .256 1987 Pirates

466 58 140 15 77 .300 1988 Pirates

584 87 160 24 100 .274 1989 Pirates

616 96 173 24 86 .281 1990 Pirates

625 112 175 32 120 .280 1991 Mets

577 102 174 18 100 .302 1992 Mets

438 62 109 19 70 .249 1993 Mets

502 81 133 34 87 .265 1994 Mets

403 60 117 20 67 .290 1995 Mets

317 49 103 18 53 .325 Totals

4954 762 1393 207 803 .281 Playoffs Year Team


H HR RBI Avg 1990 Pirates

21 0

4 0 1 .190 1991 Pirates

23 2

7 0 1 .304 Totals

44 2 11 0 2 .250