At least one of the agents representing the Baltimore Orioles' six potential arbitration cases says he thinks the club is being justifiably cautious in negotiations.
"We've only had one or two brief conversations," said Mike Powers, who is representing Randy Milligan, probably the most significant of the arbitration possibilities. "We floated some numbers around, but we haven't gotten down to serious talks yet.
"Salary negotiations being such a big thing, I think they [the Orioles] feel they have to be very cautious," Powers said. "And I can't blame them. We're doing the same thing on this side."
Powers figures both parties will begin serious negotiations after the figures submitted for arbitration become known on Monday. Players and teams have 72 hours after filing for arbitration to submit figures that are binding if the case goes before an arbitrator.
Milligan and outfielder Mike Devereaux, another arbitration possibility, never actually reached agreement last year. Both players' contracts were renewed, Milligan for $330,000, Devereaux for $210,000.
Milligan's situation is compounded somewhat because of the glut of first basemen on the Orioles' roster. But neither Powers nor general manager Roland Hemond says that is a potential stumbling block to negotiations.
"As far as Randy is concerned, he'd like to stay and finish his career here," Powers said. "But I don't know if that's practical on their part.
"If he's going to play more and have a better opportunity somewhere else, then obviously it would be to Randy's benefit to go. Our feeling is that he'd like to stay, but that's out of our hands."
With Glenn Davis locked into a prominent spot in the lineup, and with David Segui showing promise, Milligan has figured all along that he'd be traded. But manager John Oates says the Orioles will not be low-balled in trade discussions, that he's not anxious to peddle the right-handed power hitter who hit 16 home runs, and that he can make room for Milligan in the lineup.
Whether Milligan is a central figure in a trade probably will have no bearing on his salary this year. "I don't think it [a possible trade] makes any difference," Powers said. "People have an idea what players of Randy's caliber and service time will make."
Powers admitted that Minnesota's signing of Shane Mack for $1.075 million is an indication of the standard for a productive three-year player. Mack's track record, however, is based primarily on last year when he hit .310 with 18 home runs, whereas Milligan has three reasonably solid years in his resume.
"I think it's reasonable to assume that the Orioles had a pecking order for the seven possible arbitration cases they had," said Powers. "And based on his performance, it figured that [reliever] Gregg Olson would be the first in line.
"Once Gregg signed [a two-year deal for close to $4 million], it gave the rest of us an idea what the Orioles wanted to do," Powers said. "It was common sense that he'd be the first one they'd peck on. Now we just wait and see where we fit in the order."
XTC Of the six players eligible, Milligan figures to benefit the most by the possibility of arbitration. With the average salary already more than $900,000, his earnings probably will end up in the vicinity of $1.25 million.
"I can't see anything happening before Monday, when the figures come out," Powers said. "That will tell us where they are, and we'll still have ample time [to negotiate] because a hearing wouldn't be for another month."
Besides Milligan and Devereaux, second baseman Bill Ripken, designated hitter Sam Horn (who also figures to be squeezed in the first base-DH logjam), outfielder Brady Anderson and pitcher Bob Milacki also filed for arbitration before the midnight Monday deadline.
But Milligan's case is easily the most intriguing, and possibly the best bet to be resolved in a hearing -- a process, for the most part, that the Orioles traditionally have been able to avoid.