Philadelphia Inquirer - February 14, 1980
Phillies eye Baltimore’s Billy Smith
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
Another one of those fun-filled baseball interleague trading periods begins tomorrow. But the Phillies seem unprepared to do anything more monumental than dealing for a utility infielder.
The particular utility infielder in question is Baltimore's Billy Smith, a switch-hitting, three-position type who hit .249 in 1979 and even started three games at second in the World Series.
Paul Owens says his American League scouts tell him Smith "can swing the bat pretty good from either side." And there doesn't seem to be much doubt that he can play second, third and short at least as well as Rudy Meoli.
The Phillies also would be able to obtain him without depleting the number of people named Smith on their roster, because what the Orioles would settle for in return is rookie outfielder Lonnie Smith.
"To me, it would seem like an even-Steven thing," said Owens, whose biggest deal of the off-season so far has been Pete Mackanin for Paul Thormodsgaard. "They're looking for a righthanded-hitting outfielder. We're looking for improvement in our offense in the infield."
So what's the holdup? The holdup is that Owens is leaving it up to Dallas Green to decide whether he wants to do it.
"I think Dallas is still torn about what to do," Owens said, speaking for his manager, who presently has a case of Green flu that is unrelated to budget cuts in the police department. "He likes Smith (Lonnie), as we all know. Dallas has always been a big Lonnie Smith man. It's just going to boil down to whether he feels Lonnie Smith is going to help us more or whether another infielder could help us more."
Though there have been some reports that the trade is a virtual certainty, Owens said firmly, "it isn't foregone." But he did admit: "We could make it real easy. The key points are there."
The Phillies apparently will have a lot of time to contemplate whether Smith (Billy) is the utility man of their dreams, because, as the second trading period of the winter begins, they have practically nothing else going.
According to people in Texas, the Sparky Lyle deal is about as dead as the Committee to Elect Alexander Haig. Owens says the Rangers have never informed him it is officially off, but club owner Brad Corbett reportedly called Lyle in December and told him he was glad the Phillies deal had fallen through because he had "definitely" decided not to trade him.
Also, the Rangers have a trade all set to acquire Padres righthander Gaylord Perry (for Willie Montanez). And that would certainly negate their need for Larry Christenson, a key man in the Lyle deal as it was proposed at the winter meetings.
Corbett, of course, might shift gears at any moment and decide to trade Lyle for Dan Larson, Harry Kalas and three groundskeepers to be named later. But Owens seems weary of dealing with an organization that capricious.