Right fielder Bobby Bonilla probably will be tied to the Orioles for at least one more year, unless players and owners reach a labor agreement soon.
Bonilla has been under the impression all summer that he would become a free agent after this season. However, Bonilla was told by his agent, Dennis Gilbert, yesterday that this may not happen because of service time the players lost during the strike of 1994-1995.
"We are aware of [the Orioles'] position," Gilbert said yesterday, "but we don't care to comment any further at this time. We'll deal with this at the end of the World Series."
Bonilla became a free agent after the 1991 season and signed a five-year contract with the New York Mets. Under the terms of the expired collective bargaining agreement -- terms the players and owners still adhere to -- no player can become a free agent again within five years of major-league service time.
Bonilla's five-year deal is set to expire this fall. However, because of the strike, he lost service time, and, therefore, the Orioles hold what are called repeater rights -- they can retain his services if they offer him arbitration within five business days after the end of the World Series.
Bonilla drove in 116 runs and was a main cog in the Orioles' offense this year, at a salary of $4.6 million. With arbitration, Bonilla could make in the range of $5.5 million for next year. That option could be more attractive to the Orioles than giving somebody else a multi-year contract.
The players association, in negotiating a new labor agreement, is trying to get service time restored for many players with between five and six years of service time (such as Alex Fernandez of the Chicago White Sox), which would make them eligible for free agency. The players association could add Bonilla and Danny Tartabull (another '91 free agent who signed a five-year deal) to that list of players.
But players and owners seem far apart in their quest for a labor agreement, making it more likely Bonilla will be back with the Orioles for at least one more year.
Pub Date: 10/08/96