Unable to work out a deal with B.J. Surhoff before the midnight deadline, the Orioles have offered him arbitration to provide more time for negotiations.
Club executives Jim Beattie and Mike Flanagan were hoping to re-sign Surhoff last night but couldn't reach an agreement.
All teams had until midnight to offer arbitration to their free agents or they couldn't re-sign them until May 1. Surhoff must decide by Dec. 19 whether to accept it.
If he does, a hearing will be scheduled in a few months to determine his salary for the 2004 season. If he declines, the Orioles will have until Jan. 8 to sign him.
"We hope to have a deal done before then," Beattie said.
Surhoff, 39, made the club out of spring training last year after signing a minor league contract. He earned $1 million while batting .295 with five homers and 41 RBIs in 93 games.
"We're going to continue to negotiate, and we'll have a chance to spend some more time to get him signed to a contract," Beattie said. "We kind of know the parameters of the deal and hope to get it done."
Surhoff made 22 starts in left field, 20 at first base and 37 as the designated hitter. He went on the disabled list twice with hamstring and quadriceps injuries, and also missed games because of back spasms and a strained groin muscle.
The Orioles project Surhoff mostly as a left-handed bat off the bench, but he would also provide insurance in the field.
The team didn't offer arbitration to its other free agents: pitchers Scott Erickson, Kerry Ligtenberg and Hector Carrasco, outfielder Albert Belle, infielders Tony Batista and Deivi Cruz and catcher Brook Fordyce.