Orioles, Burnitz agree on 2 years

Tentative contract with outfielder worth $12M, sources say

Baseball

December 29, 2005|By JEFF ZREBIEC | JEFF ZREBIEC,SUN REPORTER

The Orioles have reached a tentative agreement with free-agent outfielder Jeromy Burnitz on a two-year contract worth about $12 million, according to sources familiar with the negotiations.

The deal will become official when some minor contractual issues are worked out and Burnitz passes a physical. The 36-year-old isn't expected to take the physical until next week.

He will become the Orioles' third free-agent signing this season, following the acquisitions of San Diego Padres catcher Ramon Hernandez and Florida Marlins outfielder/first baseman Jeff Conine, whose deal also is pending. Conine is expected to take a physical by no later than early next week.

"Nothing is done until it gets done," said Howard Simon, Burnitz's agent. "But I think it's safe to say that we are certainly staying in close touch with the Orioles."

Burnitz hit .258 with 24 homers and 87 RBIs for the Chicago Cubs last season, playing mostly right field, though he also has some experience in center and left. He likely would become the Orioles' starting left fielder after the team decided not to make a contract offer to Eric Byrnes and seem committed to Jay Gibbons in right.

Orioles executive vice president Mike Flanagan has said throughout the offseason that the club was looking to upgrade its outfield, adding power and defense. Burnitz, who would be playing for his fifth team in four seasons, is considered above-average defensively and he also has slugged 24 homers in eight of his past nine seasons. He is one home run shy of 300 for his career.

However, Burnitz is also prone to striking out. He has 1,302 career strikeouts and has struck out 100 or more times in each of the past nine seasons. Last season's strikeout total of 109 was his lowest total since 1996.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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