Anderson agent ups ante for retaining outfielder 'Pendulum on Brady's side'

Myers files as free agent, too

October 28, 1997|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

Orioles center fielder Brady Anderson and closer Randy Myers beat the rush yesterday as both filed for free agency on the first possible day.

It didn't take much longer for the cordial relationship between Anderson and the club to assume a sharper edge. Anderson's agent, Jeff Borris, insisted that by failing to sign his client to a contract extension during the season, the Orioles have imperiled their chances at retaining the popular outfielder.

Retaining Anderson and Myers represents the off-season priority for an organization hoping to make an even stronger push for a world championship in 1998. Myers, 35, is coming off one of the best seasons ever by a relief pitcher -- a league-high 45 saves in 46 opportunities, and a 1.51 ERA -- and hopes to gain a three-year deal. Jolted by the postseason struggles of Armando Benitez, the Orioles are hopeful of keeping Myers.

As for Anderson (.288, 73 RBIs), it wasn't supposed to get this far. He and owner Peter Angelos were close enough last April that Anderson hoped to announce his extension at the same time as pitcher Mike Mussina's. But the two sides have never resolved differences that include length of contract, deferred money and an option year.

As recently as August, Anderson said he would agree to a four-year deal with a present day value of $24 million.

"Circumstances are radically different than before," Borris said last night. "This is a business and not a game. The pendulum was always on Baltimore's side. Brady was prepared to stay there without discussing his employment with any other clubs.

"Now the pendulum is on Brady's side, and we're prepared to seek offers from other clubs."

Angelos has handled talks since the start of the season and has moved from an earlier offer of $5 million per season. At one point, the two sides were believed to be within $1 million of each other for the entire package. Yesterday's filing makes that proximity irrelevant, according to Anderson's agent, who said three teams expressed interest yesterday.

Borris hoped to receive a last-minute call Sunday night from Angelos, but said that call never came. His last conversation with the club occurred during a chance meeting with general manager Pat Gillick in Cleveland last week.

Free agents may negotiate only with their former teams for the next two weeks, but other teams may express interest once a player files. Anderson is not expected to speak with Angelos until the outfielder returns from a European vacation later this week.

"As a Orioles fan myself, I would take it as a very bad sign if the organization did not sign Brady," insisted Borris, who at one point set an April "deadline" for the extension. "I would take that as an indication that next year's [free-agent] group, including [Rafael] Palmeiro and [Roberto] Alomar, may not be re-signed. "His [Anderson's] heart is here, but there's a good chance his bat could end up somewhere else."

The Orioles are reluctant to bestow on any player an annual salary beyond the $7.25 million average awarded third baseman Cal Ripken beginning next season. (Such reluctance makes any trade involving Boston first baseman Mo Vaughn unlikely.) Anderson's sights have risen given that he is almost certain to be approached by the monied Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks and Atlanta Braves, among others. A disappointing season by Kenny Lofton also has made Anderson a more attractive alternative.

Though his agent declined specific numbers, Anderson, 33, is now likely to pursue a deal approaching $8 million per season. The Orioles still will be given the right of last refusal, Borris promised.

With Anderson and Myers technically no longer on their roster, the Orioles elevated pitcher Rocky Coppinger from the 60-day disabled list to the major-league roster.

Pub Date: 10/28/97

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