O's raise the ante on Ryan

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

As closer shops his services, O's offer him 3 years, $18 million

Baseball

November 23, 2005|By JEFF ZREBIEC | JEFF ZREBIEC,SUN REPORTER

B.J. Ryan spent the past two days in Cleveland talking with Indians officials, another step in a process that likely will result in the Orioles' All-Star closer leaving Baltimore.

Ryan, who saved 36 games in his first full season as a closer, has visited Toronto, Detroit, the New York Mets and now Cleveland, where he's considered the Indians' No. 1 offseason target.

He is also a top priority here, and an industry source said the Orioles have offered the left-hander a three-year deal worth $18 million. That constitutes a significant raise from March, when the Orioles presented Ryan, 29, with a three-year extension worth about $10 million.

At the time, he was hoping for a deal closer to $15 million, and the sides never narrowed the gap before Ryan's self-imposed deadline of Opening Day. Now, one American League executive said that Ryan could get a four-year deal worth $30 million.

Club executive vice president Mike Flanagan said he is still talking with Ryan's agent, John Courtright. Neither Courtright nor Ryan returned phone calls seeking comment.

Orioles officials are confident that Chris Ray, 23, is the team's future closer, but manager Sam Perlozzo doesn't want to rush Ray into the role. If they can't re-sign Ryan, the Orioles likely will look to a deep pool of free-agent closers that includes All-Stars Billy Wagner and Trevor Hoffman as well as Tom Gordon, Todd Jones, Kyle Farnsworth and Bob Wickman, who almost assuredly wouldn't return to Cleveland if the Indians sign Ryan.

One big-money club, the New York Yankees, may no longer be a suitor for Ryan. The Yankees had interest in signing him to set up Mariano Rivera, but he now reportedly is focused solely on closer opportunities.

Delgado? Not likely

The Orioles have discussed trading for Florida Marlins first baseman Carlos Delgado, but a deal remains "unlikely" at this point, according to an Orioles source. The payroll-slashing Marlins reportedly have asked for top pitching prospect Hayden Penn while expecting the Orioles to absorb the $48 million remaining on Delgado's four-year $52 million contract.

Delgado, 33, would fill the Orioles' need for a power-hitting first baseman, but they consider Penn, 21, nearly untouchable, especially in such a substantial financial deal. One industry source believes Delgado won't be traded until free-agent first baseman Paul Konerko picks a team.

According to Orioles sources, the club didn't have specific discussions with the Marlins about pitcher Josh Beckett, who along with third baseman Mike Lowell, will be sent to Boston for prospects in a pending deal. The Orioles had no interest in taking on the $18 million remaining on Lowell's contract -- one of the primary stumbling blocks in July when the Orioles pulled out of a potential trade for Florida's A.J. Burnett.

Darek Braunecker, the representative for Burnett, said the Orioles remain in contention for signing his client, one of the most coveted players on the market.

"We really haven't done anything on a definitive basis, but they are very much in the picture," said Braunecker, who said "seven or eight" teams are in the mix. Burnett is not expected to sign a deal until the winter meetings (Dec. 5-8) at the earliest.

The Orioles are a long shot in the Burnett sweepstakes, however, because they are unlikely to offer him a five-year deal.

Roberts improving

Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts is rehabbing his left elbow in Arizona and is still on target for an Opening Day return. He injured the elbow in a gruesome collision with the Yankees' Bubba Crosby on Sept. 20 and had his flexor tendon reattached and ligament-replacement surgery 10 days later.

"Certainly, everything that is going on right now puts him on track [for Opening Day]," said Mark Pieper, Roberts' agent. "He is doing strength exercises, range of motion exercises. Everything is right where it is supposed to be."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Dan Connolly contributed to this article.

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