Catcher miffed by slow market

Orioles haven't budged

I. Rodriguez frustrated

Sides still $5M per year apart

Stalled talks, low offers `painful,' says free agent


January 10, 2003|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

The Orioles have played hardball with Ivan Rodriguez in recent weeks, and while he's trying to remain patient, the free-agent catcher vented a little frustration yesterday.

Rodriguez is a 10-time All-Star and a 10-time Gold Glove Award winner, but now he's having trouble getting David Segui money.

The Orioles have yet to budge with Rodriguez after offering a three-year contract worth about $18 million. The Chicago Cubs made a similar offer last month, but those talks also have stalled, and no other team has emerged as a threat to steal Rodriguez from this depressed marketplace.

"It's frustrating," Rodriguez told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram yesterday. "I can't believe [teams are] doing this to me. I don't think people believe I'm healthy. If that's the problem, then they are completely wrong.

"I've been working hard. My back is 100 percent. My knee is fine. I don't have any problems with my knee. It's frustrating. I didn't expect this to happen to me. It's hard. It's painful."

Rodriguez, 31, was the 1999 American League Most Valuable Player for the Texas Rangers, but injuries have kept him from playing more than 111 games in each of the past three years.

Last year, he hit .314 with 19 home runs and 60 RBIs despite missing six weeks with a herniated disc in his back. In 2001, Rodriguez needed surgery on his right knee after missing time with patella tendinitis, and in 2000, he broke his right thumb.

The Orioles, who signed Segui two years ago for four years at $28 million, exchanged proposals with Rodriguez's agent, Jeff Moorad, in mid-December. On an annual basis, the two sides appeared to be about $5 million apart.

Moorad's proposal was believed to have included escalator clauses and incentives that could earn Rodriguez about $11 million per year. The Orioles offered closer to $6 million per year.

Orioles executive vice president Jim Beattie said he hasn't spoken with Moorad about Rodriguez since last Friday.

"We're keeping the lines of communication open," Orioles vice president Mike Flanagan said. "It's a long process. We didn't expect anything to happen quickly with Pudge."

Rodriguez remains the premier free agent on the market, but with little leverage, Moorad has suggested he could sign a deal to play in Japan.

"Until we get what we want, I'm not going to sign," Rodriguez said. "Baltimore is really the team they've been talking to, but I don't know. I talked to Jeff, and he said he expects some answers next week."

In other Orioles news:

Darrell "Doc" Rodgers was interviewed for the farm position opening yesterday. Rodgers was the Cincinnati Reds' assistant general manager before moving into a special assistant/scouting role last year. He is one of at least three candidates the Orioles are considering to run the minor-league system, with a decision expected early next week.

They continue to talk with Montreal Expos general manager Omar Minaya about pitchers Bartolo Colon and Javier Vazquez, but the Expos want at least two top young players in return for each one, and the Orioles don't want to part with the likes of closer Jorge Julio.

They probably won't pursue free agent Jose Cruz Jr. because they don't feel he represents much of an upgrade over center fielder Gary Matthews.

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