O's set sights on Byrd

Sources: Veteran pitcher offered 2-year deal

nothing official yet on Ryan


A day after learning that their All-Star closer, B.J. Ryan, was close to a landmark deal with the Toronto Blue Jays, the Orioles turned their attention toward upgrading their starting rotation.

According to two industry sources, the Orioles have offered veteran Anaheim Angels right-hander Paul Byrd, who went 12-11 last season with a 3.74 ERA, a two-year deal with an option for a third season. The deal, according to a source with knowledge of the negotiations, is believed to be worth between $10 million and $13 million.

It also is believed to be the Orioles' first proposal to another team's free agent this offseason. They offered Ryan a three-year, $18 million contract, but were rebuked as the left-hander, who had 36 saves this past season, appears to be on his way to signing a five-year deal worth $47 million with Toronto, a deal first reported by New York's Daily News.

Orioles executive vice president Mike Flanagan said late yesterday afternoon that he "hadn't heard anything official" and was reluctant to talk about Ryan until he did. But according to a team source, Ryan's agent, John Courtright, called the Orioles on Friday afternoon and told them the closer was headed in a different direction.

The Orioles were prepared to make a counteroffer to Ryan this week that would have been worth around $26.5 million over four seasons. But they and other teams that coveted Ryan didn't come remotely close to the Blue Jays' offer, which one American League executive described as "outrageous."

Ryan would become the highest-paid reliever in league history.

Asked yesterday if the Orioles were being priced out of the market, Flanagan said he's not concerned.

"We have talked parameters with a lot of guys and I do not think they will change," he said.

Flanagan acknowledged that the Orioles have had discussions with Byrd's agent, Bo McKinnis, but wouldn't confirm or deny that an offer had been made. The Angels and Texas Rangers also reportedly have made offers to the 34-year-old pitcher, who has a career record of 72-64.

In the coming days, the Orioles are likely to intensify their pursuit of players before the start of baseball's winter meetings Dec. 5. Chicago Cubs infielder Nomar Garciaparra and San Diego Padres catcher Ramon Hernandez remain on their wish list and could be offered contracts by the club as early as this week.

And the Orioles will have interest in starting pitcher Kevin Millwood, whether they sign Byrd or not.

Quietly, they are also still involved in the Paul Konerko sweepstakes, though they remain a long shot. They have talked with the agent for the Chicago White Sox slugger - who likely will demand around $60 million over five seasons - regularly since the free-agency period began.

Then there is the matter of finding a closer to replace Ryan. The Orioles would like to find a one- or two-year solution at closer until Chris Ray is ready, and Tom Gordon, Todd Jones and Braden Looper are among the top candidates.

"We have multiple irons in the fire," Flanagan said.

Meanwhile, Toronto management maintained yesterday that there is no final agreement between Ryan and the club.

"We still don't have anything finalized and I don't expect we'll have anything to say about this for a day or so," Blue Jays president Paul Godfrey told The Sun yesterday.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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