Now that the Orioles and Glenn Davis have reached agreement on a club-record $3.275 million contract for 1991, the two sides can map strategy for a possible multi-year deal.
Until now neither side has pressed the issue, but that will change -- possibly as early as next month.
"We had many conversations," said Michael Moye, an associate of Robert Fraley, who represents Davis. "But we have not talked about anything beyond this year.
"We've reserved that for talks to begin during spring training," said Moye. "We all felt it was in everybody's best interest to negotiate a one-year deal now and get that out of the way."
Other than to confirm the agreement that avoided arbitration with Davis, Orioles president Larry Lucchino wouldn't discuss the club's plans for future negotiations.
"What's next," said Lucchino, "is to prepare for the 1991 season and put the salary issue aside." He agreed with Moye that a one-year contract was the proper first step, and admitted that staying away from arbitration in this case was desirable, though not a necessity.
"We felt this was the right way to handle the matter," said Lucchino. "We're not opposed to arbitration when it's required, and we'll do it when necessary. But in this case, you're pleased to have your first relationship settled amicably."
Both sides have agreed to keep negotiations low-key, but Moye did say that free-agent signings this winter have not changed Davis' outlook in regard to a possible multi-year agreement. "We're very open on that," said Moye, "and we look forward to pursuing a long-term agreement."
Davis, 29, who said he had planned to buy his plane ticket today for a trip to New York and his scheduled arbitration hearing tomorrow, seemed to interpret the settlement as a positive sign. "This is a very good step for the future, and I'm optimistic about it right now," he said from his home in Houston. "I'm not going to say negotiations were easy -- both sides were prepared [for arbitration].
"I know by the way negotiations went that they respect me," said Davis. "They made it clear they want to work with me and I want to work with them. I'm very pleased with the way the relationship with the Orioles has developed.
"I'm happy -- it was a 50-50 split, we met right in the middle," said Davis, who had filed a figure of $3.65 million while the Orioles countered with an offer of $2.9 million for the scheduled arbitration hearing. "I really didn't want to go [to arbitration]," he admitted, "and I don't think the club did either.
"I think this is in the best interest of me and the club. Arbitration wouldn't have created a positive atmosphere. It's great for me . . . not just because of the money, but because of the way it was handled."
A multi-year deal with Davis almost certainly would have to average at least $4 million per year. Moye wouldn't speculate on specifics, but it is expected Davis will be seeking a four- or five-year deal in the $20 million range.
He already ranks as the Orioles' highest paid player by more than $1 million. Cal Ripken has two years left on a four-year agreement that averages $2.1 million and is worth almost $2.5 million this year.
Ripken's contract extension, signed in 1988, was for three years plus an option for 1992 that has already been exercised by the Orioles. It is the longest contract the club has given since entering into a five-year agreement with Fred Lynn after the 1984 season.
Davis has hit 144 home runs in a little less than six major-league seasons, despite playing in Houston's Astrodome, considered the toughest park in baseball for a power hitter. He is expected to benefit from the smaller parks in the American League and provide a substantial lift to the middle of the Orioles' lineup.
In the process, part of the Orioles' selling job will be to have Davis settle into the organization and the community -- two factors likely to play a big role in the next contract he signs.