O's in Konerko hunt

Offering $50M-plus, O's vie with White Sox, Angels


The Orioles are said to be one of only three teams still in the bidding for Chicago White Sox slugger Paul Konerko, one of the jewels of baseball's free-agent market.

According to industry sources, the Orioles extended a four-year, $50 million offer to the Chicago first baseman about two weeks ago. Craig Landis, Konerko's agent, did not make a counterproposal, but the Orioles, seeking a first baseman and a bat to put in the middle of their lineup, are expected to make another offer this week, probably for five years and possibly worth around $60 million.

The White Sox and the Los Angeles Angels are the other teams still involved in the Konerko sweepstakes, industry sources said. According to one industry source, all three have made five-year offers, with the Orioles' being the most lucrative.

However, the length of the Orioles' proposal was disputed by one club source familiar with the negotiations, who said that the Orioles have "conceptually" discussed giving Konerko a five-year deal, but haven't actually put it on the table.

The source maintained that the Orioles are still a "long shot" to land Konerko, who hit .283 with 40 home runs and 100 RBIs last season. Konerko, a right-handed hitter, saw his status skyrocket with a huge postseason in helping the White Sox win the World Series.

He had five home runs and 15 RBIs in 49 postseason at-bats. Konerko was also named the American League Championship Series Most Valuable Player after hitting .286 with two homers and seven RBIs as the White Sox defeated the Angels in five games.

It has been reported that Konerko, who has driven in more than 100 runs in three of the past four seasons and had his best season in 2004 when he totaled 41 homers and 117 RBIs, would like to stay in Chicago or play for a team on the West Coast.

Konerko, who was born in Rhode Island but went to high school in Scottsdale, Ariz., where he still lives, would prefer to play for a team that holds spring training in Arizona. Of the three teams in the Konerko sweepstakes, only the Orioles train in Florida.

The Orioles, according to one official, are well aware that they may have to outbid both the Angels and White Sox to have any shot for Konerko, and haven't dismissed discussing a six-year deal for the 29-year-old, who was a first-round draft pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1994.

The White Sox, who got insurance if Konerko departs with last week's trade for first baseman/designated hitter Jim Thome, have reportedly given Konerko a deadline - next week's winter meetings - to decide what he wants to do.

One high-ranking White Sox official said the world champions were wary to go to a fifth year on Konerko because of an arthritic hip condition. However, the source said the team would offer five years to its clubhouse leader if he is getting five-year proposals from other teams.

The Orioles intensified their pursuit for Konerko after failing to complete a trade for Florida Marlins first baseman Carlos Delgado, who was sent to the New York Mets for prospects.

Konerko is far and away the top first baseman on the market. The Orioles have also discussed other options, including Nomar Garciaparra, Jeff Conine and Kevin Millar, if they do not succeed in landing Konerko, but none of the three are considered everyday first basemen.



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