The best baseball team money can buy is no longer in the Bronx. It's in Baltimore, where the Maryland state bird is the oriole and the state plant, apparently, is the money tree.
If Oriole owner Peter Angelos always has wanted to put up his money to buy a pennant, he has a general manager only too happy to oblige.
Pat Gillick has gone on a shopping spree that could melt a credit card. His newest purchase is second baseman Roberto Alomar, a free agent who signed a three-year deal for $18 million Thursday.
Since Gillick took the job Nov. 27, he has added five players and the Orioles now have a payroll of more than $45 million. The next item of business is to talk to the first and third base coaches, who next season will be flashing dollar signs.
Alomar, a six-time all-star, joins recent additions Randy Myers, B.J. Surhoff, Roger McDowell and Kent Mercker.
"This signing is testimony to Peter's commitment to bring a championship back to Baltimore," said Joe Foss, the Orioles' vice chairman of business and finance.
It could have been an even greater commitment, but the Yankees gave pitcher David Cone a three-year, $19.5-million contract--the highest average salary ever for a pitcher. The Orioles offered Cone $17.75 million for three years.
The Orioles have the kind of financial situation other teams dream of. The crowds that fill Camden Yards, where the Orioles play, have enabled Angelos to earmark a significant portion of the profits to be spent on players.
Roland Hemond, who used to be the Orioles' general manager, enjoyed the same carte blanche with Angelos' money, but he didn't get as much done. But Gillick doesn't seem to want to let any free agent escape without throwing some dollars at him.
In five seasons with the Blue Jays, Alomar averaged 11 homers, 90 runs scored, 68 runs batted in and 41 stolen bases. He has batted .300 or better in each of the last four seasons and earned his fifth consecutive Gold Glove in 1995.
Alomar's deal calls for a $2-million signing bonus, $4 million in 1996 and $6 million the next two seasons. The Orioles will defer $1.7 million in each of the first two years and $1.6 million in 1998. The deferred money will be paid in 1999, 2000 and 2001 without interest.
Cone stayed with the Yankees after keeping the Orioles and George Steinbrenner waiting for a week.
Cone will get a $2-million signing bonus, $4 million in salary in 1996 and $6-million salaries in 1997 and '98. The Yankees have $5.5-million options for 1999 and 2000, with $1.5 million buyouts, but if Cone pitches regularly the options will be at his choice.
Cone, who began last season with Toronto, was 18-8 with a 3.57 earned-run average for the season and 9-2 with a 3.82 ERA with the Yankees. His 191 strikeouts ranked fourth in the American League.
"I think he just decided he wanted to be in New York," said Cone's agent, Steve Fehr.
The Yankees also signed second baseman Pat Kelly to a $2.1-million, two-year contract.
Joyner was going to get $5 million in 1996, but he agreed to a restructured two-year deal with a club option for 1998. Joyner will receive $2.5 million in 1996 and $3.97 million in 1997.
Roberts, 32, batted .304 with the Padres last season.
Joyner, 33, batted .310 with 12 homers and 83 RBIs last year, his fourth season with Kansas City. His average over 10 seasons is .290.
In other transactions:
--The Angels signed pitcher Willie Fraser, who will report to spring training as a nonroster player.
Fraser, an Angel from 1986 to '90, pitched for the Montreal Expos last season. He was 2-1 with two saves and a 5.61 ERA.
--The Houston Astros signed right-hander Darryl Kile to a $750,000, one-year deal.
Kile can earn another $500,000 in performance bonuses. The Astros first let him go to get around the rule limiting the maximum salary cut to 20%. His salary was $1,272,500 last season.
--Catcher Matt Nokes and the Milwaukee Brewers agreed to a minor league contract. He will get a $300,000, one-year contract if he makes the team, plus the chance to earn performance bonuses.
--The St. Louis Cardinals bought left-hander Rick Honeycutt, 41, from the Yankees.
Times staff writer Chris Foster and The Associated Press contributed to this story.