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Oriole Demands Are Holding Up Wiggins Trade

Times Staff Writer

It’s no longer a question of whether or not the Padres are talking to the Baltimore Orioles about trading Alan Wiggins. They are, and admit it.

Instead, the question has become: Who’s holding up the trade?

On Monday, the Padres said: Not us.

Meanwhile, Oriole officials were unavailable for comment. In the end, though, it became clear that the problem holding up the proposed trade is simply a matter of language, or, more precisely, a matter of unclear language.

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Sources said Monday that Baltimore and Wiggins’ lawyers are still negotiating over what happens if Wiggins has a drug-related relapse. The Orioles appear ready to trade one or two minor league players for Wiggins, but they want amendments in Wiggins’ current four-year, $2.8-million contract specifying what their responsibilities would be if the second baseman suffers a relapse.

For instance, Baltimore would initially agree to pay his entire contract, but in the event of a relapse, could the Orioles release him and be responsible to pay only a small portion of it? Could they decide not to release him at all, yet still reduce his salary?

Not all of the amendments proposed by Baltimore are favorable to Wiggins and his lawyers, and that is the holdup.

In the meantime, the Padres are waiting for an answer.

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“I’m just waiting for someone to call so we can continue conversations,” said Padre General Manager Jack McKeon, who admitted Monday that recent trade talks have involved only the Orioles. “We haven’t decided (on who the minor leaguers are). When we get to the nitty-gritty, we’ll get to that.”

Added Padre President Ballard Smith: “We are not holding up the trade. That’s all I can tell you. . . . Obviously, a lot have to agree to finalize it--Wiggins, the Players’ Assn., the American League, the National League, the Orioles and the Padres. I can tell you there’s nothing from our standpoint that’s holding it up.”

And the clock ticks. As of today, Wiggins, who is working out with the Las Vegas Stars (the Padres’ Triple-A affiliate), has 13 days remaining in the minors. If he is not traded or released by July 7, the Padres must take him back on their roster. They have said they will do no such thing and are seeking a deal as a solution.

But maybe not with Baltimore. The Orioles, sources say, are still talking with San Diego, but also are looking elsewhere for potential second basemen.

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Of course, if the Padres eventually decided to release Wiggins, the Orioles could get him for the minimum salary of $40,000. In that case, the Padres would have to pay the remainder of Wiggins’ guaranteed contract, which is why it’s unlikely he’ll be released.

Wiggins still has not played a game with Las Vegas, and sources say Wiggins’ lawyers are becoming impatient about that, wondering if the Padres are acting in good faith. Apparently, Wiggins’ lawyers, who declined comment, will ask either National League President Chub Feeney or Player Relations Committee President Lee MacPhail to discuss the matter with the Padres.

Las Vegas Manager Bob Cluck has said Wiggins is not yet in shape to play.

Owner George Steinbrenner of the New York Yankees once considered trading second baseman Willie Randolph for Wiggins, the New York Times reported. But Steinbrenner is no longer considering the trade.

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“The deal was set to be made, subject to the Yankees talking to the doctors about Wiggins’ prognosis,” columnist Dave Anderson quoted an unidentified San Diego source as saying.

Said McKeon on Monday: “I don’t know if they were serious about (offering Randolph). I don’t now if there was anything concrete.”


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