Orioles, Gibbons close to extension

Three-year contract worth $16M to $17M


Talks between the Orioles and right fielder Jay Gibbons about a contract extension progressed so much yesterday that one industry source called the deal "very close."

Negotiations slowed while executive vice president Mike Flanagan and vice president Jim Duquette were in the Dominican Republic earlier this week, but apparently the sides closed considerable ground last night.

The three-year extension, worth between $16 million and $17 million, could be signed this weekend or by early next week, the source said.

Since team owner Peter Angelos apparently has given the Orioles the green light to extend Gibbons' deal, the only remaining holdups are the specific structuring of the contract and a pending physical, which Gibbons is expected to pass.

Reached last night, Duquette would not confirm the report, but he did not deny the club's interest in retaining Gibbons, who can become a free agent after the 2006 season.

"Part of the organization's plan, along with improving the team through free agency, is to sign our guys that want to be here to long-term contracts," Duquette said. "So we are hopeful we can do that with Jay, as well as for some of our other guys."

The team also has had contract extension discussions with third baseman Melvin Mora and catcher Javy Lopez, both of whom are free agents after this season. Unlike Mora and Lopez, however, Gibbons is still arbitration-eligible, so his agents and the Orioles began negotiating earlier in an attempt to avoid a February hearing.

Gibbons has asked for $5.3 million in this, his final arbitration year, while the Orioles had countered with $4 million.

If the three-year extension becomes official, Gibbons will avoid arbitration next month and be locked up through 2008.

Neither he nor his agents could be reached for comment.

Gibbons, who turns 29 in March, was drafted in the 14th round by the Toronto Blue Jays in 1998 and spent three seasons in the Blue Jays' minor league system before being selected by the Orioles in the December 2000 Rule 5 draft.

In his five-season big league career, he has hit 102 homers and driven in 331 runs - all in an Orioles uniform. He also has emerged as a team leader and club player representative.

Last season, he tied for second on the team with 26 homers and was third with 79 RBIs. His .277 batting average tied his career high, and his .833 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) was a career high.

The contract extension also would come at a good personal time for Gibbons. He is getting married at the end of the month.


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