Palmeiro on menu for O's, Angelos 4-year, $32 million bid on dinner table tonight in meeting with owner

November 18, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

Italian? Seafood? How about four years plus an option?

Orioles majority owner Peter Angelos has scheduled a working dinner tonight with free-agent first baseman Rafael Palmeiro and his agent, Jim Bronner, in an attempt to retain the team's Most Valuable Player.

Palmeiro is scheduled to fly from his Dallas home to Baltimore today as the Orioles grow increasingly concerned about a lineup at risk of losing its four most productive players from last season.

According to one source familiar with the Palmeiro negotiations, the Orioles have upgraded their long-standing three-year, $21 million offer to a four-year contract approaching $32 million. The modified offer still leaves the Orioles trailing the Boston Red Sox and at least one other club, the source said.

Bronner did not return phone calls yesterday.

Angelos and Palmeiro will attempt to use the same face-to-face tactics employed in negotiating long-term contracts with pitcher Mike Mussina and center fielder Brady Anderson. Over linguini and Chianti, offers and counteroffers are typically stenciled on napkins.

Increasingly cornered by an uncooperative market while attempting a clubhouse makeover, the Orioles now sense an urgency missing during a summer of lagging talks with pending free agents. Only last week Angelos intimated to the Washington Post that he felt resigning Palmeiro was "not in the cards."

Resigned to losing first baseman Mo Vaughn, the Red Sox have extended Palmeiro a four-year offer worth $34 million-$36 million. The unspecified team -- believed to be the Texas Rangers -- has submitted a bid averaging well over $8 million a year.

While the Orioles appear to be budging from their hard line, Palmeiro reportedly has softened a demand for a five-year contract that repulsed Angelos.

One American League executive said yesterday he believes it inevitable that Palmeiro will return to Baltimore, where he has averaged nearly 40 home runs and 120 RBIs the past four seasons. Palmeiro, 34, enjoyed the best five-year span of any Orioles player ever after signing a $30 million contract in December 1993.

The Orioles remain put off by Palmeiro's push to become a $10 million player. However, the recent bidding for Vaughn -- the Anaheim Angels reportedly have offered a six-year, $72 million package -- and a recent flurry of bids may enhance Palmeiro's leverage.

The Orioles are currently without four players -- Palmeiro, B. J. Surhoff, Eric Davis and Roberto Alomar -- who last season accounted for 42 percent of their runs, 50 percent of their home runs and nearly 46 percent of their RBIs.

General manager Frank Wren, meanwhile, says that the club isn't interested in the economics of signing Vaughn or center fielder Bernie Williams.

Free-agent outfielder and native son Brian Jordan arrives in town tomorrow night for a Friday interview with Wren and possibly Angelos.

As the Orioles plot strategy concerning Palmeiro, the New York Mets, as expected, offered Surhoff a three-year, $12.75 million .. deal identical to the Orioles' modified bid.

However, the cash-strapped Pittsburgh Pirates further complicated the situation by extending a surprise four-year bid believed to be worth $15 million-$16 million. With a four-year offer in hand, Surhoff could be tempted to raise his demands with the Orioles.

dTC Hoping to trade Ryan Klesko, the Atlanta Braves also are believed to harbor interest in the Orioles left-fielder.

Alomar met with the Cleveland Indians yesterday and proclaimed them his No. 1 choice. The All-Star second baseman also will speak with the Mets and Red Sox this week before deciding on his third team in five years.

Asked if Alomar's plummeting market value might entice the club to make a lightning bid, an Orioles official said yesterday, "Not a chance."

Pub Date: 11/18/98

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