Flanagan: Ryan to test free agency


If the Orioles are going to re-sign All-Star closer B.J. Ryan, they are likely going to have to beat out some of baseball's biggest spenders to do it.

Orioles executive vice president Mike Flanagan said yesterday that Ryan's agent, John Courtright, informed the club they are not interested in engaging in serious contract discussions during the Orioles' 15-day exclusive negotiation window that will start with the end of the World Series.

"We'll see when we get there, but we certainly have not been eliminated from that process," said Flanagan. "It's what most players do when you've come this far. You're a couple of weeks away from being able to be a free agent. I can't think of too many cases where it's any different than that."

According to a team source, the Orioles are planning on making Ryan, the hard-throwing left-hander who had 36 saves this year, an offer they feel will be competitive in the free-agent market. Ryan will likely be one of the league's most coveted free agents, and could attract interest from, among others, the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets, both of whom have closer issues, and the New York Yankees, who are looking for a setup man in front of Mariano Rivera.

The news that he is not interested in negotiating exclusively with the Orioles is hardly a surprise. As early as last spring, Ryan maintained that if he didn't sign a long-term deal with the Orioles before the season, he was prepared to test the market.

Ryan and his agent did not return calls yesterday.

"There was an effort made in [last] spring, and we couldn't get there - maybe because of a little bit more on their side," said Flanagan, who acknowledged that solidifying the closer spot is a priority in the offseason. "I understood completely that they really didn't talk until the end of the season, which means [they wanted to] explore free agency. It is a player's right."


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