Club, agent for Surhoff talking extension Left fielder seeks 3 years, between $12M and $13.5M


July 30, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

DETROIT -- Interrupting three months of suspended animation, the Orioles and the agent for left fielder B. J. Surhoff have resumed talks on a contract extension for the pending free agent.

Orioles assistant general manager Kevin Malone and Surhoff's agent, Greg Clifton, met in Baltimore yesterday to re-establish parameters for a deal that seemed imminent during spring training but has since lingered. Surhoff is seeking a three-year deal, apparently for between $12 million and $13.5 million.

"It's in their hands," Surhoff said before last night's game against the Detroit Tigers, referring to the Orioles. "I don't know what they had to say. But they're the ones who determine whether it moves forward or not."

Along with pitcher Scott Erickson, Surhoff seemed the most likely player to sign an extension this spring. Like Erickson, his talks dragged past Opening Day. Unlike Erickson, they have failed to reach critical mass since.

Erickson signed a five-year, $32 million deal on May 13, the largest total package in franchise history. Surhoff's deal is not expected to challenge the club's financial stepladder, which gave center fielder Brady Anderson a five-year, $31 million deal as a free agent last December.

Malone declined to comment on yesterday's meeting.

Surhoff said, "It's not something I'm getting overly concerned with. If something happens, great. If not, we'll wait until after the season and see what kind of interest there is elsewhere."

Surhoff, in the final season of a three-year contract, has done little except strengthen his bargaining position this season. After going 1-for-4 with three RBIs last night, he is batting .295 with 15 home runs and 67 RBIs, trailing only first baseman Rafael Palmeiro for the team RBI lead.

Surhoff also leads the team in doubles (26) and is tied for third in runs scored (55) and stolen bases (eight). His nine assists ranked fourth among American League outfielders before last night, and he is one of three Orioles to have played every game this season.

Surhoff, who will turn 34 Tuesday, consistently has expressed a desire to remain in Baltimore. Since signing as a free agent before the 1996 season, Surhoff has evolved into a consistent, albeit unspectacular player. He hit a career-high 21 home runs in 1996 playing mostly third base, then followed with a career-high 88 RBIs in 1997 after a switch to left field. He is on pace to eclipse both highs this year.

Owner Peter Angelos has repeatedly insisted Surhoff will be with the club next season. Surhoff hasn't pushed the issue but acknowledges the impact this season will have on his value should he enter the off-season unsigned.

"I don't know if it [the price] has gone up, but it certainly hasn't gone down," Surhoff said. "In my mind, it's close enough that if I could sit down across the table from them I think it could be done within an hour."

The meeting between Malone and Clifton occurred as the Orioles also plan to make contact with Jim Bronner, the agent for Palmeiro.

Angelos is prepared to see how much Palmeiro may have modified his salary demands after initially suggesting a five-year contract worth about $50 million, according to a club source.

Palmeiro, however, has done nothing to diminish his value. He ranked second in the American League with 33 home runs and fourth with 87 RBIs before last night.

He signed a five-year, $30 million free-agent contract in December 1993 and has led the Orioles in RBIs every season since then and home runs in three of four before this year.

Pub Date: 7/30/98

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