While the Seattle Mariners were introducing Aaron Sele yesterday as the newest member of their starting rotation, the Baltimore Orioles found themselves picking through the scraps of a depleted free agent market to round out their staff.
With Sele having signed a two-year contract with Seattle for $15 million--three days after an agreed-upon four-year, $29 million contract with Baltimore unravelled over concerns about his arm health--the Orioles were in contact yesterday with the agents for free agent pitchers Darren Oliver, Steve Trachsel and Hideo Nomo.
Meantime, Sele, a 29-year-old right-hander who lives outside Seattle, declared that his arm is healthy, heaped praise on the Mariners for their quick reaction when things fell apart in Baltimore, but said he had no hard feelings for the Orioles.
"It was a roller-coaster ride the last few days," said Sele, who was 18-9 with a 4.79 ERA for the Texas Rangers last year. "I'm not furious or angry. They have to make business decisions based on what their [medical] people tell them. We were ready to go to Baltimore. We had made our decision and looked forward to the opportunity out there. But it got bogged down, and Seattle stepped up, and we really liked what they had to offer."
Although the Orioles never officially announced the deal on Friday while awaiting the medical reports, Sele was asked to remain in Baltimore that afternoon for a news conference.
"We never had a contract with Sele," Orioles executive vice president John Angelos said yesterday. "It was reported that we did, but we didn't have it. Until all the conditions are satisfied, there is no contract. We just didn't get to a point where we could get it done."
When team orthopedist Michael Jacobs first raised the questions on Friday about the health of Sele's shoulder--he had thrown more than 200 innings in both of the past two seasons--the Orioles began proposing modified deals, including one that guaranteed the first two years, with performance incentives based on innings pitched that could trigger the third and fourth years.
But on Monday, Sele's agent called Seattle General Manager Pat Gillick to see if there was still interest on the part of the Mariners, who last month offered a three-year, $18 million deal that Sele rejected. Gillick said yes, and some six hours later a deal was struck. Sele underwent a physical examination for the Mariners in Los Angeles, and the Mariners were satisfied with the results.
"I think you can look at any pitcher's medical reports and either see something or not see something," said Sele. "Their team doctor examined me on Friday and came up with a question about something in my arm and they just kind of slowed the process down. To be honest with you, I'm not sure what their concern was."
The deal Sele agreed to in Baltimore would have made him the highest-paid pitcher, in average salary, in Orioles history.
Now, barring a trade, the Orioles won't be able to add an impact player to a rotation that already includes Mike Mussina, Scott Erickson, Sidney Ponson and Jason Johnson. But with budgets for 2000 being finalized, one Orioles executive said the non-signing of Sele could be a "blessing in disguise" because it could free up more money that could be used later to take on a hefty contract, should the Orioles find themselves in position to contend.
Of the three free agents available, the Orioles rate Oliver the highest. A 30-year-old lefty, Oliver went 9-9 with a 4.26 ERA last year for the St. Louis Cardinals. Trachsel, a 30-year-old right-hander, went 8-18 with a 5.56 ERA last season for the Chicago Cubs. Nomo, a 32-year-old right-hander, was 12-8 with a 4.54 ERA for the Milwaukee Brewers last year.