Disgruntled Baltimore Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada, in his first conversation with a team official since he said he wanted to be traded, did not back off from that demand, a team source said. There appears to be hope for the Orioles that they can retain their best player, though, as the conversation was characterized as "productive" by the source.
The team plans to stay in touch with Tejada with the intent of changing his mind. But in case the Orioles are not be able to persuade Tejada to stay, they are already taking phone calls from other teams interested in trading for the former MVP.
At the very least the phone call, which took place after Tejada participated in a charity softball tournament in the Dominican Republic, allowed the shortstop to voice his concerns about the team. Tejada told the Orioles he made his trade demand to a reporter in the Dominican on Thursday because he wants to play for a winning organization. It remains to be seen whether Tejada is convinced the Orioles can be that winning team. Diego Bentz, one of Tejada's agents, did not return a phone call.
The Orioles had been trying to get in touch with Tejada since Friday morning, the same day his representatives first expressed to the team the shortstop's wishes to be traded.
If the Orioles decide to trade Tejada there certainly would be much interest, particularly from the Boston Red Sox, who seem eager to acquire the shortstop. A large obstacle to a trade with the Red Sox was removed on yesterday when a source close to outfielder Manny Ramirez said he would "absolutely" accept a trade to Baltimore.
Ramirez's willingness makes it more likely the teams can make a deal. Obviously, there are other issues involved, such as whether Baltimore would want to trade Tejada to a team in its division, and how much money the Red Sox would offer. One Baltimore official said the team would want a considerable amount of money from Boston to offset the difference in annual salaries, and another player, possibly pitcher Bronson Arroyo.
The most important issue is whether the Orioles will trade Tejada at all. If so, it seems they won't have trouble finding a trading partner. Numerous radio reports in Chicago said the Cubs would be willing to put together a package. It seems reasonable to think the Cubs would have to offer either starter Kerry Wood or starter Mark Prior plus prospects.
One Orioles official believed the Los Angeles Angels could be a good match since they could offer shortstop Orlando Cabrera, first base prospect Casey Kotchman, and pitching prospect Ervin Santana. It appears the Angels are interested. The New York Mets are rumored to be involved. However, the Orioles say they have had only initial conversations with teams.
Baltimore officials are puzzled as to why Tejada would make such a demand.
"I was saddened and disappointed," owner Peter Angelos said on Friday. "I always believed he was quite happy in Baltimore."
Angelos believes the congressional investigation of Rafael Palmeiro, in which Tejada was called to testify, may be playing a part. In a report of that investigation released by the House Government Reform Committee, two players said they had injected Tejada with vitamin B-12 at least 35 times each.
"Maybe there's something to that," Angelos said. "He's a very proud man. He's a classy type of player and he was probably hurt how that was disclosed."
Regardless, it remains to be seen how Tejada will be received by fans and teammates if he's not traded and whether the shortstop will sulk if he stays. In a conversation on Friday, Orioles third baseman Melvin Mora said Tejada promised he wouldn't.
"Believe it or not," Mora said on Friday, "if they don't trade Tejada, he's still going to play hard."
Staff writer Barry Svrluga contributed to this report.