Delgado, Orioles no closer to deal

Coveted slugger re-affirms preference for contender

Red Sox may stay in hunt

Baseball

December 24, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

With the holiday season upon them, Orioles officials will take a short break before resuming talks that so far haven't brought them the ultimate gift - a free-agent slugger for the middle of their lineup. Industry sources confirm that the Orioles haven't made any progress toward signing first baseman Carlos Delgado since the winter meetings in Anaheim that ended almost two weeks ago.

Their first offer, believed to be for three years and less than $30 million, remains a starting point, but no teams have stepped forward with proposals that are pressuring the Orioles to budge.

Team officials are convinced that Delgado will remain on the market until late January, with both New York teams and the Boston Red Sox providing the Orioles' stiffest competition. The Seattle Mariners dropped out of the running after signing Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre.

Delgado confirmed this week in Puerto Rico that those four teams are showing the most interest in him. He also noted a preference to join a contender in a deal covering four or five years.

David Sloane, who represents Delgado, wouldn't comment on negotiations with the Orioles or any other club.

Baseball insiders believe the Yankees will go hard after Delgado if they fail to sign free-agent center fielder Carlos Beltran. The Mets offered Delgado a three-year deal at the winter meetings, and they reportedly will go beyond $40 million over that time frame.

Meanwhile, an industry source said the Red Sox are likely to maintain interest in Delgado despite reaching agreement with catcher Jason Varitek yesterday on a four-year, $40 million contract. Boston general manager Theo Epstein spoke with Sloane earlier this week, and he's expected to focus more of his attention on Delgado now that Varitek has resigned.

The Red Sox would have to clear room at first base by trading Doug Mientkiewicz or Kevin Millar.

The Orioles were interested in Mientkiewicz at the non-waiver trade deadline this year if the package also had included one of the Minnesota Twins' top outfield prospects, but they no longer seem willing to deal for him after he hit .215 in 107 at-bats with the Red Sox.

Delgado earned $19.7 million this season, the last installment of a four-year, $68 million contract, and he isn't willing to take a substantial pay cut.

The Orioles are gambling that if another team steps up with a significantly better offer, they'll still have a chance to counter it. But they haven't received any assurances from Sloane that he'll come back to them.

In the meantime, clubs looking to bolster their lineups are running out of options on the free-agent market.

The Orioles still are intrigued by outfielder Magglio Ordonez after reviewing his medical records. Ordonez underwent two surgeries on his left knee this season, the last one in Vienna, and teams will wait until he begins performing baseball-related activities before attempting to sign him.

Ordonez could work out for Orioles officials at Camden Yards next month.

NOTES: Darek Braunecker, who represents Florida pitcher A.J. Burnett, said the Marlins indicated again this week that they intend to keep the right-hander rather than trade him. The Orioles have expressed interest, but the Marlins were willing to move him only if they could acquire Oakland pitcher Tim Hudson in a three-way deal. Hudson was traded to the Atlanta Braves.

A team official said the Orioles had no interest in outfielder J.D. Drew before he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers, despite reports that they were making a strong push for him this week.

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