Mussina isn't open to a trade

Stalled in contract bid, ace says `no way' he'd waive no-trade clause

O's offer not `in ballpark'

July trade deadline would hang over him

May 02, 2000|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

Orioles ace Mike Mussina says "there is no way" he will waive or be bought out of the blanket no-trade provision of his three-year, $20.45 million contract if talks on an extension fail to regain momentum before the July 31 trade deadline.

"There's no reason to" relinquish the clause, Mussina said before leaving town to spend yesterday's off day with his family in Montoursville, Pa.

The blanket no-trade provision became a keystone of Mussina's $20.45 million extension signed three years ago tomorrow. It now represents critical leverage against a franchise that risks receiving only draft picks as compensation should its signature pitcher defect via free agency. Speculation has grown within the industry since last season that the Orioles would seek to deal Mussina if talks reached a stalemate. Such a deal would require the pitcher's consent, which he says won't be given.

Asked why he would refuse a lucrative buyout of his no-trade clause, Mussina said, "It would be a tough two months" between the July 31 trade deadline and season's end. "That's not what I'm looking for," he said.

Center fielder Brady Anderson and right fielder Albert Belle also enjoy blanket no-trade protection. Belle is covered through next season, the third year of his five-year, $65 million contract. Anderson is protected both contractually and by his status as a "5-and-10" player who has played in the same league for 10 consecutive seasons and the same organization for at least the past five. Third baseman Cal Ripken, another pending free agent, enjoys "5-and-10" protection.

Left fielder B. J. Surhoff and pitcher Scott Erickson enjoy partial no-trade protection, though Erickson is only months shy of gaining the right to veto any deal.

Mussina and his agent, Arn Tellem, have not given the club a deadline for a contract extension to be reached. And, Mussina added, there are no plans to do so.

"The way it's going now is OK with me," he said. "I've done the best I can to accept the situation is going to be the way it is for most, if not all, of this season."

Angelos and Tellem have spoken regularly since the Orioles' majority owner improved his standing offer to $60 million over five years in early February. The offer was an upgrade from Angelos' earlier five-year, $50 million proposal; however, the upgrade also contained $10 million in money deferred without interest, a concept Mussina says he will not entertain. The seven-year, $105 million contract given Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Kevin Brown and the six-year, $75 million extension awarded Cy Young Award winner Pedro Martinez by the Boston Red Sox do not include deferred money.

Tellem is essentially using Martinez's deal -- signed after the 1997 season -- as a baseline for his client's talks. That Angelos has yet to offer either a sixth year or the average annual value suggests the gulf still separating the two parties.

Sources familiar with talks say Tellem has broached a six- and seven-year framework with Angelos seeking at least $15 million per season. It is believed, however, that Mussina, 31, would accept a six-year, $84 million contract without deferred money.

Mussina said of the club's latest offer, "I wouldn't consider that in the ballpark. ... You can't fine-tune when you're not close."

Mussina insists his relationship with the front office remains "hospitable." However, he adds that past negotiations involving Angelos and teammates Anderson, Rafael Palmeiro, Roberto Alomar and Arthur Rhodes leave him skeptical about chances for a rapid resolution.

"I think the best way to approach it is to expect the worst case scenario possible," Mussina said. "If they make an offer or we make an offer, it's not going to go back and forth for five days and be done. It might take four or five months.

"I came to the understanding in spring training that this is going to be the slowest possible scenario. If it goes faster, great. If it doesn't, I'm not disappointed it hasn't."

Precedent exists for the club moving pre-emptively -- both times involving May signings of pitchers. Mussina signed a three-year, $20.45 million deal with Angelos on May 3, 1997, and was quickly criticized by Major League Baseball Players Association members for agreeing to a below-market deal. On May 13, 1998, Erickson agreed to a five-year, $32 million extension.

A provision of Erickson's deal stipulates a minor portion of his contract will be reworked if Mussina is re-signed.

"I'm resigned to the fact that working an extension here might take until September to do. If it goes through September and through October and the filing date comes around and we haven't ironed it out, then we file [for free agency]," Mussina said.

Mussina denies any suggestion his uncertain contract status has factored in a 1-2 start that included being winless after his first five starts.

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