Palmeiro, O's agree on 1-year contract

Salary is under $5 million

deal includes 2005 option

January 11, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

The Orioles agreed to terms yesterday with free-agent first baseman Rafael Palmeiro on a one-year contract with an option for 2005, bringing back a key member of their 1996 and 1997 playoff runs and a recent addition to baseball's exclusive 500-home run club.

Terms were not disclosed, but a team source said Palmeiro will make less than $5 million next season, after making $9 million last year for the Texas Rangers. The deal will become official once Palmeiro passes a physical exam.

Palmeiro, 39, is the third major addition the Orioles have made to their lineup this offseason, joining shortstop Miguel Tejada and catcher Javy Lopez.

Together, that trio combined to hit 108 home runs last year.

Palmeiro left the Orioles as a free agent after the 1998 season, leaving a five-year, $50 million offer on the table to sign a five-year, $45 million contract with the Rangers. But his strong feelings for Baltimore and Camden Yards never changed.

"This was the only place he wanted to play," said Orioles vice president Mike Flanagan.

Palmeiro remained a model of consistency throughout his tenure with the Rangers, slugging 214 home runs in those five seasons to raise his career total to 528.

He has hit at least 38 home runs in each of the past nine seasons, a major league record, and has played in at least 154 games every year since 1996.

Palmeiro has also reached 100 RBIs in each of the past nine seasons.

Palmeiro has 2,780 career hits, and with two more healthy seasons, he'll have a chance to join reach the 600-home run and 3,000-hit plateaus as an Oriole.

"He's a middle-of-the-lineup guy, and our focus has been on the middle-of-the-lineup guys," Flanagan said. "We were looking to upgrade the offense, but we still feel like he can play an outstanding first base, and that's a huge part of this."

In 1998, his last season with the Orioles, Palmeiro played 159 games at first base and spent three games as the designated hitter. Last year, with Mark Teixeira getting most of the time at first base for the Rangers, Palmeiro played just 55 games there and 96 as the designated hitter.

Palmeiro, who was unavailable to comment last night, hit .260 with 38 home runs and 112 RBIs last season.

"He's one of those guys who loves to hit and loves to play baseball," said Orioles second baseman Jerry Hairston, who played with Palmeiro briefly, in September 1998. "In the minimal amount of time I've known Raffy, I noticed how prepared he is. You don't have numbers like that without being prepared to play."

NOTE: The Orioles came close to hiring Don Zimmer before he took an advisory position with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays last week. Zimmer, who turns 73 this month and has been in baseball for 55 years, most recently as the New York Yankees' bench coach, will be in uniform for spring training and make selected road trips with the Devil Rays. The Orioles were looking at hiring him in a similar advisory role. "We tried to work something out," Flanagan said. "But he lives in St. Petersburg [Fla.] and this way he's home. We're happy for him."

Palmeiro's career statistics

Year Team G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG

1986 Chicago (NL) 22 73 9 18 4 0 3 12 1 4 6 .247 .295 .425

1987 Chicago (NL) 84 221 32 61 15 1 14 30 2 20 26 .276 .336 .543

1988 Chicago (NL) 152 580 75 178 41 5 8 53 12 38 34 .307 .349 .436

1989 Texas 156 559 76 154 23 4 8 64 4 63 48 .275 .354 .374

1990 Texas 154 598 72 191 35 6 14 89 3 40 59 .319 .361 .468

1991 Texas 159 631 115 203 49 3 26 88 4 68 72 .322 .389 .532

1992 Texas 159 608 84 163 27 4 22 85 2 72 83 .268 .352 .434

1993 Texas 160 597 124 176 40 2 37 105 22 73 85 .295 .371 .554

1994 Orioles 111 436 82 139 32 0 23 76 7 54 63 .319 .392 .550

1995 Orioles 143 554 89 172 30 2 39 104 3 62 65 .310 .380 .583

1996 Orioles 162 626 110 181 40 2 39 142 8 95 96 .289 .381 .546

1997 Orioles 158 614 95 156 24 2 38 110 5 67 109 .254 .329 .485

1998 Orioles 162 619 98 183 36 1 43 121 11 79 91 .296 .379 .565

1999 Texas 158 565 96 183 30 1 47 148 2 97 69 .324 .420 .630

2000 Texas 158 565 102 163 29 3 39 120 2 103 77 .288 .397 .558

2001 Texas 160 600 98 164 33 0 47 123 1 101 90 .273 .381 .563

2002 Texas 155 546 99 149 34 0 43 105 2 104 94 .273 .391 .571

2003 Texas 154 561 92 146 21 2 38 112 2 84 77 .260 .359 .508

Totals 2567 9553 1548 2780 543 38 528 1687 93 1224 1244 .291 .373 .522

Postseason

Division Series G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG

1996 Orioles 4 17 4 3 1 0 1 2 0 1 6 .176 .263 .412

1997 Orioles 4 12 2 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 .250 .250 .417

1999 Texas 3 11 0 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .273 .333 .273

AL Champ. Series G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG

1996 Orioles 5 17 4 4 0 0 2 4 0 4 4 .235 .364 .588

1997 Orioles 6 25 3 7 2 0 1 2 0 0 10 .280 .308 .380

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