SARASOTA, Fla. -- Center fielder Mike Devereaux recently avoided an arbitration hearing when he signed a one-year contract worth $3.025 million. Now, he would like to avoid the unpleasantness of year-to-year contract negotiations altogether by agreeing to a long-term deal this spring.
"That's something that's definitely in the works," Devereaux, 29, said yesterday. "I like Baltimore. I like this club. The possibility of an arbitration hearing can cause controversy between you and the club, and it's something that doesn't have to happen."
That apparently is why agent Ray Anderson was in camp to meet with Orioles president Larry Lucchino yesterday. The two had lunch and presumably talked contract while Devereaux, just a few hundred feet away, went about the business of preparing for the coming season.
"Arbitration is something we didn't want to go through," Devereaux said. "It's a blessing that we've gotten things settled early the last couple of years, and this is a situation where, hopefully, if both sides can come to an agreement, we can avoid it in the future."
This is not the first indication that the club might be more open to getting its best young players locked up long-term. Two weeks ago, left fielder Brady Anderson said he was involved in negotiations for a possible three-year deal. It seemed logical that Devereaux would be afforded the same consideration, coming off a season in which he drove in 107 runs and was named team MVP.
The club has made a policy of not commenting on specific contract negotiations, and Lucchino did not deviate from that policy yesterday. The team normally shies away from long-term deals for young players, but there have been exceptions in certain cases -- most recently when the Orioles signed Gregg Olson to a two-year deal in December 1991.
Lucchino said yesterday that the Orioles probably would not follow the lead of clubs such as the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox, who have made an effort to lock their young players into long-term deals, but he would not rule out multi-year deals in individual cases.
"We've looked at that," he said. "We've considered it. We prefer the approach that we have taken. If a long-term deal were appropriate, we would do it, but we aren't planning to change our approach to young players. It's a question of what's prudent. You have a player compensation system that may be changing."
Lucchino was not speaking specifically about Devereaux at the time. He was referring more to the players in the zero- to three-year service class. The Orioles figure to handle their arbitration-eligible players on more of a case-by-case basis.
Club officials have expressed concern in the past about the negative effect that an arbitration hearing can have on the psyche of a young player, which might explain why the team seems willing to negotiate with Anderson and Devereaux.
"We've been concerned with that factor," Lucchino said. "Some players can take it and some can't, but I think it does take a toll on both sides."