The Baltimore Orioles signed right-handed pitcher Pat Rapp to a one-year contract worth a guaranteed $750,000 today, after unsuccessful runs at Chuck Finley and Aaron Sele.
Rapp, 32, had a 6-7 record and a 4.12 earned run average for the Boston Red Sox in 1999, making 26 starts, second on the team behind Pedro Martinez's 29. He also made 11 relief appearances, but the Orioles envision him as a starter.
The deal had been in the works since last Friday, but this week's snowstorm prevented Rapp from flying here for a physical examination until Thursday. Rapp never has had serious arm problems, and he passed the physical.
This month the Orioles pulled out of an agreed-upon four-year, $29 million deal with Sele after raising concerns about wear in Sele's shoulder following his physical. Sele later signed with the Seattle Mariners.
"We've had very good scouting reports on [Rapp's] velocity, his fastball and his curve," said Syd Thrift, the Orioles' vice president of baseball operations. ". . . He's always been under consideration by this team. He's not someone who just came out of nowhere at the last minute."
Rapp had been in danger of slipping through the cracks of a deep, but not particularly stellar, free agent pitching class.
He said today that the only other offers he had were invitations to spring training as a nonroster player.
"I was getting kind of nervous about the whole situation," he said. "I figured I'd play somewhere. . . . There were four or five teams interested, but . . . this is a better spot for us, with a roster spot and a contract."
Apparently misjudging the free agent market, Rapp reportedly turned down a $2.1 million offer following the 1999 season to remain in Boston, after the Red Sox declined to exercise Rapp's $3 million option.
Rapp, whose best pitches are a cut fastball and hard curve, was a number two starter as recently as 1998 with the Kansas City Royals, and he went 14-7 with a 3.44 ERA for the Florida Marlins in 1995, his best season. Overall, he is 56-67 with a 4.46 ERA in eight seasons.
Stopping short of guaranteeing Rapp a spot in the Orioles' starting rotation, Thrift said today that he hopes to have at least six starter-quality pitchers on the Opening Day roster. Right-hander Jose Mercedes, recently signed to a minor league contract, is an option.
Orioles Notes: Both sides in the Orioles' contract dispute with former general manager Frank Wren have submitted their final arguments to Commissioner Bud Selig, and Selig, acting as arbitrator in the case, is expected to issue a ruling in the next few weeks, Wren's lawyer said.
Wren was fired Oct. 7, one year into a three-year, $1.35 million contract. He and Orioles owner Peter Angelos reached a settlement, but Angelos later voided the settlement, citing breach of contract. Wren is seeking the difference between the settlement and his new contract with the Atlanta Braves, who hired him as assistant general manager Nov. 10.
"It's in the commissioner's hands now," said Herb Belgrad, Wren's lawyer. "He has all the information he needs, unless he decides to take testimony, which he has the power to request."
Selig could not be reached today, but he has said he will not discuss the case until he rules. . . .
Orioles right fielder Albert Belle, whose off-field controversies were a constant source of headaches for the organization in 1999, recently wrote a letter to Angelos expressing optimism for the 2000 season, both personally and for the team, sources said.
Neither Belle nor Angelos responded to phone calls, but sources familiar with the letter said Belle told Angelos he is working out diligently at his home in Tucson and is "focused" on the 2000 season. He also promised that the Orioles will get what they expected from him when they signed him to a five-year, $65 million contract before the 1999 season.