Assuming he passes a physical this morning in Baltimore, right fielder Jay Gibbons officially will be announced today as the third member of the Orioles' lineup signed through 2009 - joining shortstop Miguel Tejada and new catcher Ramon Hernandez.
Gibbons, who turns 29 in March, agreed to a four-year extension yesterday that is worth just over $21 million, The Sun has learned. Facing an arbitration hearing next month, the Orioles and Gibbons' agents, Sam and Seth Levinson, began discussing a contract extension in December. During much of the negotiations, the sides were focused on a three-year pact that would have allowed Gibbons to avoid arbitration in 2006 and stay with the team through 2008.
But the agreed-upon deal keeps the left-handed power hitter, who has never played a major league game in another uniform, with the Orioles for four more seasons.
Gibbons came to the Orioles as a Rule 5 draftee from the Toronto Blue Jays in 2000. He has hit 102 homers and driven in 331 runs in parts of five seasons here. Last year, he was tied for second on the team in homers with 26 and was third with 79 RBIs. Neither he nor his agents could be reached for comment. A news conference announcing the signing is expected this afternoon.
Club executive vice president Mike Flanagan, however, was hesitant to call the deal done last evening.
"The talks are ongoing and we are confident something will get done, but the [contractual] language is not completed as of yet," Flanagan said.
In arbitration, Gibbons was asking for $5.3 million - a raise from $2.8 million in 2004 - while the Orioles countered with $4 million. Now, Gibbons, on average, will make about $5.275 million annually, roughly what the Orioles would have had to pay him in 2006 if they had lost arbitration.
The news comes at a fortuitous time for Gibbons, who will be married Saturday in California.
The signing also has a certain significance for Flanagan and vice president Jim Duquette, who this offseason have stressed the importance of locking up their own players before they can leave via free agency.
Now that the Gibbons deal is finished, the Orioles likely will turn their attention to third baseman Melvin Mora, who is signed through the coming season for $4 million. The team has made an initial offer to Mora's agent, Lon Babby, but terms were not released.
Babby, reached yesterday, said that the sides were "engaging in a process, and we'll see where that takes us. We are in the early stages of it and hopefully we'll be able to work our way through it."
Although Babby and the Orioles would not reveal details, it is believed that Mora is seeking at least a three-year extension. That would allow him to join Tejada, Hernandez and Gibbons to form the team's offensive core through 2009.
The New York Mets traded Mora, who will be 34 in February, to the Orioles in July 2000 as part of the Mike Bordick deal. Once considered a super-utility player, Mora has emerged as an All-Star third baseman. He led the team in homers with 27 and was second with 88 RBIs in 2005.
The Venezuela native lives in the Baltimore area during the offseason and has made no secret that he'd like to stay here if the deal is right.
NOTES -- With Boston reportedly close to a deal with Cleveland to acquire outfielder Coco Crisp, the likelihood that the Orioles and Red Sox will make a deal involving center fielder Luis Matos has diminished considerably. The sides talked about a possibility of swapping Matos for Red Sox infielder Tony Graffanino, but the Orioles felt they already had a similar player in Chris Gomez. The Orioles also have talked to the Chicago Cubs about second baseman Todd Walker for Matos. But, assuming incumbent second baseman Brian Roberts (elbow surgery) is ready for Opening Day, the club's not sure it could get Walker sufficient at-bats as a bench player and part-time designated hitter. If he's not traded this offseason, Matos, 27, will compete with newly acquired Corey Patterson - and possibly top prospect Nick Markakis - for the Orioles' starting center field job this spring.