O's, Palmeiro near, but no deal so far

December 11, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

The Orioles and the agent for free-agent first baseman Rafael Palmeiro plodded through a day of detail work yesterday, and hope to put the final touches on a five-year contract early today.

A club source said late last night that an agreement remained close and that it's likely the final problems will be resolved shortly, but the negotiations have been far more difficult than anyone expected.

Orioles general manager Roland Hemond and agent Jim Bronner were in telephone contact throughout yesterday, but finally shelved the negotiations at about 7:30 last night. The club is believed to be offering a five-year package worth about $28 million, though some deferred compensation will allow Bronner to call it a five-year, $30 million deal.

Bronner did not mirror the optimism of some Orioles officials, but he has been careful not to expose his hand during three days of intense negotiations.

"It isn't done," Bronner said from his Chicago office last night. "I'm not going to speculate about tomorrow. Until a deal is done, it isn't done."

Hemond said essentially the same thing, though he put a more positive spin on the events of the day.

"Until it's done, you can't celebrate," he said. "You have to get it done before you can say there is an agreement."

The negotiations have been going on almost nonstop since Wednesday, when Hemond and club counsel George Stamas traveled to Chicago for talks with Bronner. Orioles officials have expressed confidence since then that a deal would be struck, but the negotiations halted temporarily Thursday night, when both sides became entrenched.

It has reached the point where neither side really can afford to pull out. Palmeiro turned down a $26.5 million deal with the Texas Rangers and probably won't find another team other than the Orioles willing to spend that kind of money in a quiet off-season.

Orioles managing general partner Peter Angelos received some criticism when he took a hard-line position with free agent Will Clark and lost him to the Rangers.

Clark's contract was reported as a five-year deal worth $30 million, but a large percentage of the money was deferred over a five-year period that follows the expiration of the deal. Factoring in inflation and other financial considerations, the Rangers estimated the actual value of the deal in 1993 dollars at $27.5 million.

Apparently, it is very important to Bronner and Palmeiro to get more than that, because the perception is Bronner made a serious miscalculation when he turned down the five-year deal in Texas. Palmeiro just had built a $3 million home near Dallas and wanted to be part of the first season in the Rangers' new stadium.

The Orioles may be the only team in a position to meet Palmeiro's price, but sources indicate Bronner has continued to fight for structural concessions that would make the deal more advantageous to his client.

Though the Orioles have been immersed in the Palmeiro negotiations, they still have had time to address their uncertain bullpen. Hemond confirmed last night that the club also is working on a contract that would bring veteran right-handed reliever Mark Eichhorn to Baltimore.

Assistant GM Doug Melvin has been working on signing Eichhorn, who was with the Blue Jays last season. He would give the Orioles an extra middle reliever and setup man in case right-hander Alan Mills is needed in the closer role.

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