Jordan heading home to Atlanta Baltimore native rejects O's offer to sign $40M deal with Braves

Alomar to join Indians today

Wren: 'Pieces still out there' for O's puzzle

November 24, 1998|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

The Orioles played a nostalgic tune during Brian Jordan's visit to Camden Yards on Friday, plucking at his sentimental strings with a lavish presentation that reached all the way to his hometown roots. But in the end, their efforts produced the same, sad song.

Eager to remake baseball's most disappointing team, the Orioles and their orange-carpet treatment hit another snag yesterday when Jordan agreed to a five-year, $40 million contract with the Atlanta Braves. The Milford Mill High School graduate had received a modified offer from the Orioles for about the same money, representing the richest contract in franchise history. It also came with assurances that he could play center field, his position of choice.

It wasn't enough.

By joining the Braves, where he's projected as the right fielder, Jordan will be closer to his Stone Mountain, Ga., home. He has other ties to the area, having been a Pro Bowl safety with the NFL's Falcons. And he expressed a desire to be near his daughter Briana, 7, and son Bryson, 4, during the baseball season.

"Staying on the East Coast was a priority," said Jordan, who also was courted by the New York Yankees and Mets. "I seriously considered going to Baltimore. They put on a good show, and that made the decision that much tougher. But the bottom line is family, being in Atlanta, not having to relocate. The kids wanted daddy home."

Jordan and his agent, Jim Turner, phoned general manager Frank Wren yesterday to relay the news.

"I don't think it was a financial decision on Brian's part," Wren said. "A big consideration was staying home, where he lives. That's what he told me today when I talked to him and his agent. They appreciated our interest and the way we handled #i everything. That was a strong consideration for him."

Jordan, 31, hit .316 with 25 homers for the St. Louis Cardinals batting behind Mark McGwire this season -- both career highs. He also had 91 RBIs and 17 stolen bases.

The deal calls for him to get a $3 million signing bonus, $4 million next season, $7 million in 2000, $8.5 million in 2001, $6 million in 2002 and $9 million in 2003.

Atlanta has a $10.5 million option for 2004 with a $2.5 million buyout. If the option is exercised, Jordan would get $48 million over six seasons.

The Braves are in the midst of their own makeover. Jordan's signing comes less than two weeks after they traded pitcher Denny Neagle and right fielder Michael Tucker to the Cincinnati Reds for All-Star second baseman Bret Boone and pitcher Mike Remlinger.

All the Orioles have to show for their off-season efforts so far is closer Mike Timlin, who was given a four-year deal. Rising costs have made the free-agent market an uncomfortable place. They were outbid by the Boston Red Sox for second baseman Jose Offerman and by the Arizona Diamondbacks for pitcher Todd Stottlemyre.

"I would have hoped that we would have gotten a few more pieces by now," Wren said, "but I think the big thing is that a number of the pieces that we're pursuing are still out there. We're still going at it."

Hopeful of moving Brady Anderson to left field, the Orioles could jump into the bidding for New York Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams, who seems intent on trumping the seven-year, $91 million deal Mike Piazza signed with the Mets. A cheaper alternative would be former Oriole Steve Finley, coming off a subpar year with the San Diego Padres.

"I don't want to get into specifics at this point," Wren said, "but we're moving hard on a lot of fronts to fill our needs."

Losing Jordan focuses more attention on the Orioles' failure to sign Eric Davis, who received a two-year, $8 million deal with the Cardinals that his former club deemed too expensive for a player expected to be a part-time outfielder and designated hitter.

The disappointment over Jordan came one day before second baseman Roberto Alomar's official departure from the Orioles.

Long eliminated from next season's plans, Alomar has agreed to a four-year contract with the Cleveland Indians reportedly worth $30 million to $32 million. A news conference is scheduled today at Jacobs Field to announce the signing, which will reunite the nine-time All-Star with his brother, Sandy, the Indians' catcher.

Alomar spent three sometimes tumultuous seasons with the Orioles. His reputation never was fully repaired after the 1996 spitting incident with umpire John Hirschbeck. A heated exchange with manager Ray Miller during a clubhouse meeting in Chicago in August probably ended whatever chance Alomar had of returning here.

The Orioles didn't make an offer to Alomar, who batted .282 last season with 14 homers and 56 RBIs. It was his lowest average since 1988, when he hit .266 after breaking into the majors with San Diego. He had batted .300 or better for six straight seasons, including a career-high .333 with the Orioles in 1997.

His most impressive achievement this summer was being named MVP of the All-Star Game while playing for the American League team managed by Cleveland's Mike Hargrove.

"We felt like it was time to make a change," Wren said.

Jerry Hairston, who spent most of the season at Double-A Bowie before getting a September call-up, remains a possible replacement for Alomar. Free agent Delino DeShields is a more likely alternative, though the club continues to explore trades for the Milwaukee Brewers' Fernando Vina and Pittsburgh Pirates' Tony Womack.

"I think our second base situation is one that will kind of settle itself when we put the whole club together," Wren said. "I'm not prepared to say which way we're going to go because there's a lot of other things that will probably happen first."

Pub Date: 11/24/98

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