Anderson decision is on deck O's free agent will take less to stay, but pursuit means 'less is more'

Six teams express interest

Angelos-Johnson rift may play role in choice

November 05, 1997|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

Still waiting on a new and improved offer, free-agent center fielder Brady Anderson said yesterday that his possible return to the Orioles also may be influenced by the status of embattled manager Davey Johnson, whom he supports.

Anderson spoke Monday afternoon with majority owner Peter Angelos about Johnson's precarious status but said he received no assurances either way.

While making clear he was not speaking for the owner, Anderson said, "My gut feeling is Davey will be back and he'll be back for several more years."

Anderson also acknowledged that he and his agent, Jeff Borris, have received interest from at least six teams, including the New York Yankees. Anderson maintains he still is willing to re-sign with the Orioles for less money but that the club's best opportunity may have passed.

"Playing for less in Baltimore probably will always be true, but the less is getting higher and higher," he says.

The Orioles are the only team that can negotiate with Anderson until Monday. Then, the marketplace becomes a bazaar, as open bidding begins.

Angelos has shown reluctance to elevate any player into the game's financial elite. Cal Ripken remains the team's highest-paid player with his three-year, $21.75 million contract extension that begins next season. Anderson may be able to achieve that figure elsewhere; however, it's an unlikely figure at home.

"I've played the last two seasons not knowing what was going to happen and I've had the best two seasons of my life," said Anderson, a first-time free agent. "When I was offered a lot of money and decided not to sign, that was unsettling until I made up my mind not to be afraid of anything. I have my skill. Nothing is unsettling to me. Any team in baseball would love to have me play for them. I don't sit around and fret about my situation. I like my situation."

Anderson went public with his support for his manager during the American League Championship Series. He reiterated his feelings yesterday as general manager Pat Gillick and assistant Kevin Malone met with Angelos over the matter.

"I think everything has an effect on your situation," Anderson said last night before leaving for Europe. "Everything I like about Baltimore has an effect on the situation. It's our whole team I want to stay with.

"If Peter sold the team and I had to play for another owner, it would affect the situation. I couldn't be guaranteed the new owner would be as committed to winning. I'm like everyone else. I want to see what happens."

He may not have to wait much longer. Angelos is believed near a decision on whether to allow Johnson to fulfill the third year of his $2.25 million contract.

Anderson, meanwhile, admits he is astounded that a $10,500 fine of Roberto Alomar -- designated to be assigned to a local charity that lists Johnson's wife, Susan, as a salaried fund-raiser -- could ignite such a firestorm. Anderson was well aware of Alomar's differences with the manager. He considers the second baseman a friend. But he says the matter could be handled without injuring the team.

"Frankly, a lot of things irritated me about the situation with Robby and Davey," Anderson said. "Davey is a great guy to manage our team. I hate hearing all this bickering. It bothers me because it's unnecessary. It's a great team. It's a successful team. What's to fight about? We've all got it made. We've got a bunch of guys who play hard. When you have a great combination you should realize it."

Anderson's defection, especially to a division foe, would represent a serious fraying to a veteran roster. With Angelos in charge of negotiations, the Orioles last offered him a four-year, $23 million package, including about $5 million deferred. In July, Anderson countered with a request for a $24-million package with no deferred money plus an option for 2002 with a $2 million buyout. The matter hasn't budged since.

Negotiations between Anderson and the club began in August, 1996, during his 50-home run season. The parties appeared close to a deal last April but stalled. Momentum was later lost despite four meetings between player and owner. Hoping to avoid any distraction during the postseason, Anderson put off Angelos' request for a breakfast meeting last month but spoke with him briefly the past two days. Numbers weren't exchanged. However, Anderson is clearly prepared to raise his contract demand.

"If I was the general manager of the Orioles, the day the '96 season ended I would have called me into the office and signed me," he said.

" I can't force the Orioles to come in and end it, and I'm not going to try. I want them to want me and come get me."

Angelos repeatedly has maintained his commitment to retaining Anderson but as of Monday faces competition from other well-financed teams.

Six teams besides the Orioles have so far expressed "serious" interest in Anderson. They are believed to be the Yankees, Atlanta Braves, Colorado Rockies, Toronto Blue Jays, Los Angeles Dodgers and Seattle Mariners.

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