- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 31, 2002

The Baltimore Orioles are not making a push to sign free agent outfielder Jose Cruz Jr., executive VP Jim Beattie indicated yesterday.
After making offers to free agents Cliff Floyd and Hideki Matsui in recent weeks that were not accepted, the Orioles prepare to enter 2003 still trying to add a big bat to their lineup. They have spoken to Cruz's agent, but Cruz, who hit 30-plus home runs in 2000 and 2001 before dropping to 18 last season, doesn't quite fit the mold of the player the Orioles are looking for.
"It's possible we'll talk probably a little further down the line," Beattie said yesterday. "I'm not sure he'd be an upgrade over what we have now."
The Orioles already have a full outfield, with Jay Gibbons, Marty Cordova, Gary Matthews Jr., Chris Richard and utility man Melvin Mora all returning from last season. Baltimore alleviated its glut in the outfield somewhat by not tendering a contract to Chris Singleton, who signed with Oakland last week.
Baltimore was thought to be a possible destination for Cruz after he was not tendered a contract by the Toronto Blue Jays, with whom he has played the previous 5 seasons. The 28-year-old has power, but has hit over .253 just once (2000) in his career.
Baltimore is staying active in the free agent market, as it hunts for a starting pitcher to shore up the rotation. Baltimore has made an offer to a free agent pitcher whom Beattie did not name, but among the top available names are former Cubs pitcher Jon Lieber and ex-Ranger Kenny Rogers.
Negotiations with catcher Ivan Rodriguez, whom the Orioles had made an offer to just days earlier, broke off Dec.18 and the two sides have not had substantive talks since then. However, the Orioles plan to contact Rodriguez's agent again later this week to determine if the catcher is willing to come closer to Baltimore's offer, which is thought to stand between $5million and $7million per season. Rodriguez is seeking at least $10million after making about that figure last season in Texas.
Though the Orioles' only addition this offseason has come in the signing of shortstop Deivi Cruz to a one-year contract, Beattie and vice president Mike Flanagan are remaining patient.
"I don't know how the month will work out," Beattie said. "I imagine we'll be able to do a few things. What we can do, we have to wait and see. But if we get to the point [where they haven't signed a power hitter] at the end of the month, we're not going to start throwing money at someone.
"Mike and I are pretty grounded about what our needs are and which players can help the club and which don't fit."
Beattie said he also has been in contact with Montreal general manager Omar Minaya, whom he worked with as general manager in Montreal from 1995 to 2001. The Expos, thought to be big players this offseason since they are looking to move some higher salaried players, among them third baseman Fernando Tatis and pitchers Bartolo Colon and Javier Vazquez, have not made a move as of yet.
Also later this week, the Orioles expect to begin interviewing candidates to replace Don Buford as director of minor league operations. Flanagan said they have compiled a list of about 20 candidates and want to get someone in place as quickly as possible.

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