O's: No new deal now for Mussina Gillick says he'll talk contract after season

March 07, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The agent for Orioles ace Mike Mussina again asked general manager Pat Gillick about a possible contract extension for his client, and, again, Gillick told him the club intends to wait until after the season for any talks.

Gillick met with agent Arn Tellem on Monday night. "He asked us if we were going to do anything with Mussina [and his contract]," Gillick said. "I told him, right now, we probably weren't. He had heard someplace we might've changed our minds, and I said we hadn't.

"I told him if we changed our minds, we'll get back to him. Right now, it doesn't look like we will."

Mussina is in the last year of a two-year contract that pays him $4 million this season, and there are reasons for the Orioles to wait until after the season to negotiate an extension. First, they can see if Mussina is healthy before committing big dollars.

Second, if they negotiate with Mussina, then they could have other players looking for extensions during the season. Gillick said last week it is his preference to postpone any negotiations until after the season; once spring training starts, he said, the focus should be on winning this year.

There are also compelling reasons for the Orioles to consider an extension. Unless there are major changes in the collective bargaining agreement between players and owners, Mussina will be eligible for arbitration after this season and for free agency after the 1997 season.

If Mussina went to arbitration, he conceivably could win the highest award ever (the current mark is $5.3 million, by Jack McDowell in 1994). Mussina's lifetime winning percentage of .703 is the highest among active pitchers.

To date, his contract negotiations with the Orioles have been amicable, and he reiterated yesterday he wants to maintain that relationship -- if the Orioles keep him secure, he has no intention of bargaining for every possible dollar.

"I'd prefer to get something done [now]," Mussina said. "I'd feel better knowing we wouldn't get into [more negotiations] for another couple of years. I'd like it to go smoothly and quietly and simply.

"I would rather be secure than fighting over a million dollars here or there over three years or over two years."

If the Orioles did work out an extension, it probably wouldn't be for more than two years. Gillick doesn't like signing pitchers to contracts of more than three years (a two-year extension would mean Mussina is signed through '98), protection against the sort of debilitating arm injury that occurs regularly in baseball.

Pub Date: 3/07/96

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