In baseball contract negotiations, close doesn't count for anything.
Mariners free-agent right fielder Jay Buhner indicated to
Seattle-area reporters that he thought he was close to becoming an Oriole in midweek, but the ones doing the actual negotiating have indicated otherwise.
Seeking to quash the perception that his client's mind was made up, agent Alan Hendricks issued the following statement yesterday: "Any report that Jay Buhner is on the verge of signing is premature and incorrect. There is nothing imminent."
Said Orioles assistant general manager Frank Robinson: "I don't think we've ever felt we were close to an agreement. We've felt good and we still feel good about the negotiations. But they haven't said yes yet. That's the key."
Said Hendricks: "I agree with Frank. We have exchanged offers. We're not close to a deal, but we haven't ruled anything out. I think there's a whole lot of conjecture going around here."
The Mariners, perhaps responding to public pressure after superstar Ken Griffey said he wanted to bolt Seattle if the Mariners can't retain talented players, made Buhner an offer worth an estimated $13.2 million for three years. The Orioles' offer is for a reported minimum of $16 million over four years.
"We talked today with Alan Hendricks and we're still talking," said Mariners president Chuck Armstrong. "Alan assured us he wouldn't make any deals with anybody else without talking to us again first."
Buhner, 30, hit 21 home runs in strike-shortened 1994, hit 27 in 1993, 25 in '92 and 27 in '91. Brady Anderson's 12 home runs were tops among Orioles outfielders in 1994.