Despite meeting with at least eight teams today, despite discussing trades involving B.J. Surhoff and Scott Erickson, despite shifting negotiations with free agent pitcher Chuck Finley to majority owner Peter Angelos, the Baltimore Orioles today seemed almost resigned to the notion that they will leave baseball's winter meetings Tuesday afternoon without having made a significant move.
"I came here with great enthusiasm and optimism," Orioles director of player personnel Syd Thrift said. "But as the clock runs and people change their minds and approaches. . . . I go back to my practical mode and don't expect anything to happen. So anything that happens will be a surprise."
Thrift said the Orioles are not "shopping" Surhoff, but that interest in the left fielder is high. He also said Surhoff is not "untouchable," and baseball sources said the Orioles have discussed trades involving Surhoff with the New York Mets and perhaps other teams.
Fueling the Surhoff rumors was the fact his value is at an all-time high, following a 1999 season in which he hit .308, set career highs in home runs (28) and runs batted in (107) and made his first all-star team. Surhoff represents the only flexibility the Orioles have to change their outfield, because center fielder Brady Anderson and right fielder Albert Belle have full no-trade power.
Moving Surhoff would require the Orioles to find another starting outfielder; they would prefer to move Anderson to left. The Mets have made center fielder Roger Cedeno available.
The Orioles also have considered moving second baseman Delino DeShields to the outfield, with rookie Jerry Hairston taking over at second.
More likely was a potential trade that would have sent Erickson, the Orioles' number two starting pitcher, to the Mets. However, sources said the Orioles asked for Octavio Dotel, the Mets' best young pitcher, and the Mets balked.
"If you trade anyone like [Erickson], you'd have to get better [pitching in return because Erickson] is a guy who is going to pitch 220 innings for you," Thrift said.
Meantime, Angelos has taken over negotiations with Tim Shannon, the agent for Finley, a 37-year-old lefty who is seeking a three-year deal for around $27 million. The Orioles are believed to be offering in the neighborhood of $22-23 million, and the Mariners and Red Sox also are believed to be in the bidding. Angelos and Shannon were expected to speak again tonight or in the morning.
Also, free agent left-hander Arthur Rhodes, who was in attendance at the winter meetings today, said he had an "excellent" meeting with the Seattle Mariners. Rhodes spoke as if he were resigned to seeing his eight-year tenure with the Orioles come to an end.
The Orioles are believed to have offered Rhodes a three-year deal for about $8 million, and his agent, Dan Horwits, who is negotiating solely with Angelos, said three other teams have offered Rhodes four-year deals. However, two Orioles officials said they don't believe anyone has offered him four years. Horwits said he planned to speak to Angelos again before Rhodes makes his decision, perhaps Tuesday.
Rhodes said he would prefer to remain in Baltimore and was disappointed the Orioles did not make a better offer. "I've been in the organization my whole career," he said. "You would think they would do more for me than they have. But I'm not going to lose any sleep over it."
Rhodes said he spoke with Mariners Manager Lou Pinella by phone today to discuss potential "bullpen roles."
Thrift said the Orioles have a fallback plan in case they lose Rhodes. "There are pitchers who want to be in Baltimore," he said.
Notes: The Orioles made one minor trade today, acquiring right-handed reliever Richard Negrette from the Cubs for minor league shortstop Augie Ojeda. The Cubs acquired Negrette, 23, from Cleveland on Aug. 31. He went 1-3 with a 6.13 earned run average at the Indians' Class AA Akron affiliate last season and 1-0 with a 5.40 ERA in three appearances for the Cubs' Class AA West Tennessee affiliate. He was on the Cubs' 40-man roster. . . .
The Orioles are waiting until the results of Greg Myers's physical are completed before announcing the signing of the 33-year-old backup catcher. . . .
The Tampa Bay Devil Rays gave a double-boost to their offense today, signing free agent outfielder Greg Vaughn to a four-year, $34 million deal, and acquiring third baseman Vinny Castilla from Colorado as part of a four-team, nine-player trade.
"They've shown they want to win now," said Vaughn, who hit 95 homers the last two season.
As part of the monster Castilla trade, the Rockies got third baseman Jeff Cirillo from Milwaukee, pitcher Rolando Arrojo and infielder Aaron Ledesma from Tampa Bay; the Brewers got catcher Henry Blanco and right-handed pitcher Jamey Wright from Colorado, and right-handed pitcher Jimmy Haynes from Oakland; and the Athletics got right-handed pitcher Justin Miller from Milwaukee. . . .
In other trades today, the Yankees sent outfielder Chad Curtis to Texas for minor league right-handers Brandon Knight and Sam Marsonek; Arizona acquired right-handed reliever Brad Clontz from Pittsburgh for a player to be named; Pittsburgh also sent outfielder Brant Brown to Florida for outfielder Bruce Aven; and San Francisco sent right-hander Jerry Spradlin to the Royals for a player to be named.