The Orioles will announce the re-signing of outfielder Brady Anderson to a five-year, $31 million contract this afternoon. For .. now, their run of success stops there.
Free-agent designated hitter Paul Molitor notified general manager Pat Gillick last night that he will re-sign with the Minnesota Twins. As a result, the Orioles quickly offered arbitration to their own free agent, Harold Baines.
Assistant general manager Kevin Malone projected that the club would return to the platoon of Baines and Geronimo Berroa next season.
"We think Berroa and Baines will give us the same or better production than any one guy," said Malone. "We think the combination will serve us well."
Gillick, who had spent the previous two days lobbying Molitor in Minneapolis, learned of the player's decision around 11 p.m. Gillick then quickly extended arbitration to Baines and Anderson. Though Anderson has agreed to return, he had not actually signed as of last night.
Having narrowed his choices to the Twins and Toronto Blue Jays, with the Orioles third on his list, Molitor met at his Minneapolis home with agent Ron Simon last night. The Orioles are believed to have offered Molitor, 41, a one-year deal worth about $4 million, but could not compete with his desire to remain in familiar surroundings.
"I couldn't cut the cord," Molitor said. "As much as I wanted to make it a Toronto-Baltimore decision, I couldn't do it.
Baines earned $1.925 million last year while Berroa received $3.3 million. The Orioles acquired both players through trades. Another possible alternative to the Baines/Berroa platoon, Chili Davis, is believed ready to sign with the New York Yankees.
Regardless of their DH situation, the American League East champions will not have to seek another outfielder.
Majority owner Peter Angelos avoided a nuclear winter for his franchise by retaining Anderson only hours after the Cleveland Indians expressed an interest in the three-time All-Star.
"[Angelos] always assured me I was coming back, but there were certain times I started to wonder. The one thing I wanted was a long-term deal. My thinking was: How bad do they really want me if they won't commit to that?" Anderson said.
Last spring, Anderson sought a three-year, $18 million contract, but received a counteroffer of $15 million. Saturday night's agreement will provide him an average salary of $6.2 million, along with greater deferred money.
Angelos at first sought to defer $1.25 million annually, but the figure grew to $1.5 million for each of the first four years.
The Indians -- now apparently prepared to bring back the devalued Kenny Lofton -- offered Anderson a four-year, $28 million package on Saturday. Anderson said it was the first time he felt a sense or urgency in negotiations.
"I had never felt that urgency before," Anderson said. "At that point, I knew it had to get done. I felt he knew it, too."
Anderson stopped short of saying he was prepared to accept the Indians' offer. His agents, Dennis Gilbert and Jeff Borris, scrambled to put together a counteroffer.
Meanwhile, Anderson unsuccessfully tried to reach Angelos for about an hour before finally reaching the owner at his home. The two spoke for about 45 minutes. A deal was struck when Angelos agreed to bump the deal $1 million.
"It all took place so quickly. For all the times we got so close, all of a sudden we were there," said Anderson, who had pushed for $6.25 million per year.
Though the Indians and Atlanta Braves offered Anderson more, he was handsomely rewarded for waiting to sign until after the season.
"I didn't change the money," Anderson said. "What I basically changed was the length of the contract," from three to five years.
The contract is the richest ever rewarded an Oriole player and involves a significant commitment beyond its financial terms.
Next May, Anderson will possess enough continuos tenure within one league and with one team to veto any trade. The Orioles thereby granted him a de facto no-trade clause. Given Anderson will be 38 when the contract expires, Angelos has shown tremendous faith in the outfielder.
General manager Pat Gillick projected Jeffrey Hammonds as Anderson's replacement, but the notion did not satisfy the organization.
Asked his worry level regarding Anderson's negotiations, manager Ray Miller conceded: "It was a huge concern. If you lose him, your immediate action is to replace him before you can improve the ballclub. Brady represented over 200 runs in '96 and 170 runs in '97. I figure he's worth close to 200 runs next season. Offensively, it would have been a huge loss."
Aside from Molitor, the Orioles now gear themselves for lesser problems. Friday's signing of Scott Kamieniecki to a two-year, $6.1 million deal allows them to scour the market for a lower-priced fifth starter.
Free agents Orel Hershiser and Doug Drabek represent possibilities. The Orioles also still seek another relief pitcher and have made a preliminary inquiry about free agent Rod Beck.
Pub Date: 12/08/97