Orioles, Anderson agree on contract Star outfielder gets security he sought: 5 years, $31 million

$6 million to be deferred

Late offer by Indians is rebuffed

'I wanted to stay in Baltimore'

December 07, 1997|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

Brady Anderson never grew used to the month-old description, "free-agent center fielder." Now, he won't have to.

Virtually assuring he will end his career before a fan base that influenced his negotiating tack, Anderson agreed in principle last night to the Orioles' five-year, $31 million contract offer that provides him the security he ardently sought while allowing majority owner Peter Angelos to maintain the club's financial stepladder.

"Whether I gave up leverage is a matter of opinion," Anderson said. "If I did, I don't care. I realize I signed under my market value in Baltimore. But they have other things that mean just as much or more than money."

Just as importantly, re-signing Anderson returns a sense of stability to an organization rocked 10 days ago by the defection of free-agent closer Randy Myers to the Toronto Blue Jays. The Orioles now have under contract the entire starting lineup from last year's American League East champions.

The deal, which should be signed early this week, provides Anderson $6.25 million each of the first four years and $6 million in 2002. Deferred money explains the somewhat unusual structure. The club will hold back $1.5 million in each of the first four seasons. The fifth year includes no deferral. The issue represented the final sticking point between Anderson and Angelos and ultimately served as Anderson's greatest concession.

Angelos conceded a fifth season that guarantees that Anderson, who turns 34 in January, will play the final year at 38. Entering his 11th season with the Orioles, Anderson will reach 10 years of major-league service in April. The combination of tenure gives him the right to veto any trade.

In confirming the agreement, Angelos said of Anderson: "I've always felt he's a special kind of guy. He has a personality and a certain charisma about him. He's already accomplished some great things in his career. Now that he's got this behind him, I think we can expect more great things from him."

Anderson's agents -- Dennis Gilbert and Jeff Borris -- met with Angelos for more than three hours on Friday. No deal was made; however, Angelos was apparently convinced that Anderson's $6.2 million average salary was well enough below market value to permit the addition of a fifth year. During the afternoon meeting, Angelos extended a five-year, $30 million offer. A 45-minute conversation between Anderson and Angelos produced a $1 million bump and Anderson's acceptance.

In recent weeks, Anderson and Angelos spoke by phone, over dinner and in the owner's downtown office. While dining in an Italian restaurant, the two shook hands over a friendly wager, causing patrons at a nearby table to ask Anderson if an agreement was sealed.

"It was hard for me to be back in Baltimore when I was negotiating," said Anderson, in California for a 10th day. "The fans were influencing me to a great extent about staying, but it was in a terrible way from a financial standpoint. If I'd stayed around there, I would've signed for three years."

Anderson's signing comes before the Orioles received any serious competition. Though the Atlanta Braves tendered a four-year, $30 million bid, they retracted the offer 36 hours later when free-agent first baseman Andres Galarraga agreed to a three-year, $24.75 million deal. For three weeks Anderson waited for the New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays or Los Angelos Dodgers to step forward. None did, at least partially because of Anderson's oft-stated desire to remain in Baltimore.

The Cleveland Indians extended a four-year, $28 million bid yesterday, according to a source close to the situation. However, Anderson's hands-on method prevented Borris and Gilbert from making nimble counteroffers.

"I knew something had to happen pretty soon," Anderson said. "I realized that I wasn't getting offers from other teams because they thought I wouldn't leave no matter what. In some cases, they were right. In some cases, they weren't right."

Anderson chose to negotiate in person with Angelos against the advice of his agents. Though the tactic may have cost him leverage, Anderson cultivated a relationship with Angelos that seemed to cement the parties' commitment to keep the three-time All-Star in Baltimore. Asked how coming to know Angelos influenced his decision, Anderson cited a payroll now approaching $70 million, saying, "I know he'll always try to put a competitive team on the field. He's not going to liquidate the team like the [world champion Florida] Marlins did. He'll never do that."

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