The free-agent watch is marked by a series of critical dates, the first of which is Sunday. Either the Orioles re-sign catcher Mickey Tettleton by then, or face competition for his services on the open market.
In theory, the deadline is significant for Tettleton too, for if he signs before Sunday, he will retain his rights to free agency the next time his contract expires.
But Tettleton's agent, Tony Attanasio, yesterday dismissed those "repeater rights" as a motivating factor in his talks with the Orioles, which are expected to resume today.
Attanasio said Orioles officials this week expressed a strong interest in re-signing Tettleton quickly to eliminate a potential bidding war, but described the talks as "conceptual" rather than specific.
The free-agency filing period ends Sunday, and Attanasio will be free to negotiate with other clubs starting Monday. He said seven teams expressed interest in preliminary conversations the last two weeks.
"The Orioles indicated to me they have an active interest in retaining Mickey," Attanasio said. "They asked me whether we want to get things done prior to the deadline. My response was that the deadline was irrelevant to Mickey Tettleton.
"If we get it done before the deadline and he preserves his right to free agency, so be it. If we don't get it done, and he loses his free-agency rights [for five years], what we gain is an opportunity to see what the market brings."
Darren Daulton, the other front-line catcher on the free-agent market, re-signed with Philadelphia Wednesday for $6.75 million over three years. He said the teams who expressed interest in him were the New York Mets, San Francisco and "a few American League clubs."
Presumably, those are the teams that will show interest in Tettleton as well. The question now is whether the Orioles will abandon their goal of signing Tettleton for only one year before the Sunday deadline.
Attanasio did not respond directly yesterday when asked if the club proposed a multi-year contract. Orioles officials are refusing comment on the negotiations in accordance with club policy.
Asked if Tettleton might sign this weekend, Attanasio said, "It very easily could happen. If they call and offer Mickey a deal comparable to Darren Daulton's, our answer would be, 'Of course, naturally.'
"All along, from Day One, it's been clear in our minds that if you put all the catchers down -- look at [Tony] Pena, look at Daulton, look at everyone else -- then you have to look at Mickey Tettleton, too."
Pena signed a three-year, $6.4 million contract with Boston last winter. Tettleton probably would respond, "Of course, naturally" to that, too.