O's say Year 4 isn't in offer

I. Rodriguez says club added year to proposal

Beattie stands pat at 3

Tactic may backfire, aid Lopez bid

Miami TV says Rodriguez `seemed very enthusiastic'

December 20, 2003|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

A source with the Orioles said last night that the team hasn't increased its offer to Ivan Rodriguez despite the catcher's claims that a fourth year was added to the deal.

Executive vice president Jim Beattie confirmed that the Orioles haven't modified any of their proposals, including the ones to catcher Javy Lopez and outfielder Vladimir Guerrero, but he wouldn't divulge the length and financial terms of the contracts. However, the source said the club continues to offer Rodriguez $24 million plus incentives over three years.

Rodriguez caused a stir Thursday night by telling Jill Martin of WFOR-TV in Miami that the Orioles are prepared to give him four years, and that he'd make a decision within the next week to 10 days.

The source said reports of a four-year offer are a bargaining ploy by Rodriguez's agent, Scott Boras, who might be trying to steer Lopez to another team. However, such tactics could have the opposite effect on the Orioles, who might begin to favor Lopez as they grow more irritated by the rumors surrounding Rodriguez.

The team has offered Lopez $18 million over three years, and discussions continue with his agent, Chuck Berry. The Orioles spoke to Boras yesterday, but they didn't have contact with Fernando Cuza and Diego Benz, who represent Guerrero and Rafael Palmeiro.

Martin relayed part of her conversation with Rodriguez last night on WBAL Radio.

"He seemed very enthusiastic about it. He said ... he's still getting a lot of phone calls, but that they have secured four years, and that's what he's hoping for," Martin said.

"He confirmed [Thursday] night, at least to us, that they've upped it to four years. It was originally reported that he wanted four years and $40 million. I asked if the numbers were at least close, and he kind of waved his hand in a way that said, `We're working on it.' But he said if it's going to happen, it should be done in a week and a half."

Part of Rodriguez's enthusiasm over a potential deal with the Orioles is based on the proximity of the team's spring training facility in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to his Miami home.

"He'd be able to stay here for a month and a half longer. That's a real added bonus for him," Martin said.

A prospective suitor of Rodriguez's, the Los Angeles Dodgers, haven't made an offer and don't view him as a priority. They also have no intention of giving Guerrero a six-year deal because of concerns over his back, and they continue to wait on Nomar Garciaparra's availability.

Berry views the uncertainty of the Alex Rodriguez-Manny Ramirez trade as a roadblock to other player moves. Some teams were put on hold waiting to see whether the proposed deal would have a domino effect, with Garciaparra going to the Dodgers or Chicago White Sox.

"You could see things really start to develop a lot more quickly between now and Christmas," Berry said, "because at least people are going to know where things stand with respect to those players, and they'll plan accordingly."

Meanwhile, in a move that gives both sides more time to negotiate a contract, outfielder B.J. Surhoff has declined the Orioles' offer of salary arbitration.

The team has until Jan. 8 to reach agreement on a deal for 2004, but it shouldn't take that long. Surhoff's agent, Gregg Clifton, plans to speak with Beattie again on Monday and indicated that his client could re-sign during the week.

The Orioles expected Surhoff to decline, with the understanding that he would remain in the organization. He made the team out of spring training last year and batted .295 in 93 games.

"It certainly makes sense for both sides to work hard to try to get it done, and now we have until Jan. 8 to try to accomplish that," Clifton said. "I think we'll get it done, hopefully, next week. We'll be working on it."

Surhoff, 39, made 79 starts last season, most coming as the designated hitter (37), but the Orioles would prefer using him as a left-handed hitter off the bench. He could provide insurance in left field and at first base.

"Obviously B.J. is a competitor and once he gets to training camp he'll want to convince everyone that he's still an every-day player. That's his goal," Clifton said.

"He's a good leader and a good role model, which is great for the younger players."

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