Beniquez to Play for Orioles This Season

Times Staff Writer

Outfielder-first baseman Juan Beniquez, former Angel free agent, has agreed to terms with the Baltimore Orioles, it was learned Friday. The Orioles will make an official announcement Monday.

Beniquez will receive $400,000 from the Orioles in 1986, a $35,000 increase over his 1985 salary with the Angels. The Orioles also have an option on his services in 1987. He will receive the same $400,000 if he plays in '87. The Orioles, however, can buy out the option year for $50,000.

Beniquez had rejected better deals from the Angels, who severed ties with their 36-year-old leading hitter in December.

An August offer from the Angels would have guaranteed Beniquez $575,000 in 1986 and given the Angels options on 1987 and 1988. Those options, if exercised, would have brought Beniquez $1.1 million and $1.6 million, including performance bonuses. Beniquez, initially seeking two years guaranteed, rejected it.

The Angels made their final offer Dec. 7. It included a $50,000 signing bonus, an unguaranteed salary of $500,000 and performance bonuses of $150,000. Determined to get at least one year guaranteed, Beniquez again rejected the offer, choosing to test what turned out to be a very cold market.

In fact, by agreeing to terms with the Orioles, Beniquez became the first of the current crop of free agents to join a team other than the one he played for in 1985.

Beniquez will be used by the Orioles as a right-handed designated hitter, replacing Gary Roenicke, who was traded to the New York Yankees, and Dan Ford, who was released Thursday.

Beniquez, 35, broke into the major leagues with Boston, playing in 16 games in 1971. Originally a shortstop, he was switched to the outfield in 1974, his first full year with the Red Sox. He was traded to Texas in 1976, played for the Yankees in 1979, Seattle in 1980 and joined the Angels in 1981.

This past season, Beniquez led Angel regulars with a .304 batting average, seventh best in the American League but down from his career-best .336 in 1984.

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