If shortstop Mike Bordick attempts to extend his record streaks for consecutive errorless games and chances next season, he will be doing it with a different team.
The Orioles declined to offer Bordick salary arbitration last night after failing to reach agreement on a new contract. Negotiations broke off during the afternoon, which effectively ended Bordick's second tenure with the club - and perhaps his playing career.
Bordick, 37, earned $5 million this season while appearing in 117 games. The Orioles had no interest in going to arbitration, and Bordick's agent, Joe Bick, rejected the club's modified one-year offer of $1.5 million with no incentives.
The Orioles initially made an offer of $750,000, while Bick's proposal included a base salary of $2.75 million. The two sides never were close enough to assure Bordick's return to the Orioles, who will shop for a shortstop during this week's winter meetings in Nashville, Tenn.
Because they didn't offer arbitration, the Orioles wouldn't be able to re-sign Bordick until May 1.
"I did talk directly to Mike today and we had a good conversation," said Mike Flanagan, vice president of baseball operations. "We finished a little bit apart on the contract side, and at this point he didn't feel that he wanted to pursue it. It certainly wasn't a low-balled offer. It was a guaranteed contract.
"It's sad about Bordy. I would have loved to have had him back, but we went as far as we felt we could go, and it just didn't get done."
Bordick hasn't ruled out playing next season, but his wife is expecting their fifth child and he wants to remain close to his family. He spoke in September of feeling "a tug" that could pull him away from baseball and leave him with 110 consecutive errorless games and 543 consecutive errorless chances - both major-league records for a shortstop.
"I don't think it's going to hurt to go out and see if there's anything around and see what offers are out there," Bordick said. "I told myself I wanted to play and if somebody needs a shortstop, maybe I can help them out. But it's going to be hard even looking someplace else. All that definitely comes into play. I was certainly hoping to play in Baltimore and have the stability of my family here, but that didn't work out, so we have to move on, too."
Bordick, who spent 5 1/2 seasons with the Orioles during his 13-year career, said he was disappointed that the club didn't make a more substantial offer.
"Sure it's frustrating," he said. "But they're obviously headed in a different direction, so you have to respect their decision."
A fractured kneecap cost Bordick 30 games last season, when he batted .232 with eight homers and 36 RBIs. A shoulder injury in 2001 limited him to 58 games, but he remained one of baseball's most reliable fielders. He committed only one error last season but lost out to Texas Rangers shortstop Alex Rodriguez in the Gold Glove voting.
"He brought everything to the party," Flanagan said. "He was great in the clubhouse, a team leader. The team obviously jelled when he was in there, and he was as solid as he could be defensively. Another in the great line of Orioles' shortstops."
With prospect Ed Rogers at least one more year away from being ready for the majors, Orioles manager Mike Hargrove had lobbied for Bordick's return. But the club wouldn't go beyond $1.5 million.
"Is it right for a guy who's been a starting shortstop in the big leagues for a decade to be paid what a three-year utility player would make?" Bick said. "I don't feel in any way, shape or form that we're the ones being unreasonable."
Some club officials sense that Bordick is leaning toward retirement, but Bick said, "There has been absolutely nothing in our conversations that would give them that indication."
The Orioles have some interest in free-agent shortstop Deivi Cruz, who made $600,000 this season with the San Diego Padres. But his agent, Elliott Vallin, is seeking a multi-year deal that could force the Orioles to look elsewhere. Oakland Athletics shortstop Miguel Tejada, the American League's Most Valuable Player, can become a free agent after the 2003 season.
"We'll be looking around, I guess. We have been all along. We've got our nose everywhere," Flanagan said.
"There are options. We went for Bordick first. Now we'll fall back and look around."
Meanwhile, the Orioles remain interested in Japanese slugger Hideki Matsui and continue to research him. They also retain interest in free-agent outfielder Cliff Floyd but haven't begun pursuing him.
"We're exploring other avenues besides free agency," Flanagan said. "We're going to look at the crop that's out there. My guess is we'll have the whole range probably listed before we go to the winter meetings."