Mora remains without new deal

His deadline passed, frustrated All-Star might leave after '06


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Melvin Mora's self-imposed deadline for a contract extension came and went yesterday, with the All-Star third baseman becoming increasingly frustrated with the Orioles and his future with the club becoming more cloudy.

Mora, who is in the last year of a three-year, $10.5 million contract, said he wanted an extension to be completed by Opening Day, but the two sides remained $3 million apart as of yesterday afternoon and neither appeared willing to give more ground.

"We haven't heard nothing from them," said Mora, who was originally seeking a little more than $30 million over three seasons, but told team owner Peter Angelos in a meeting Friday that he would accept a three-year, $27 million offer. The Orioles made a three-year, $24 million offer to Mora in early February and haven't budged from that offer since, according to Mora and his agent.

"We've come down like 3 1/2 million before they answered us. We're not supposed to do that after not hearing an answer from them. But we came down because we want to make the deal done. But they haven't come up. It's not me," Mora said.

Orioles vice president Jim Duquette said he didn't want to get into any of the specifics of the negotiations, including Mora's saying the club hasn't moved from its original offer.

"Nothing's really changed since yesterday, but as far as getting into more detail, we're just not going to get into it," Duquette said. "We're not going to talk about it every day or give daily updates on the thing. We'll continue to have dialogue, and that's all we're going to [say] about it."

Asked whether talks were over and he is ready to test free agency after the season, Mora said they would still listen if the Orioles called. The two sides spoke last night, but it was hard to say whether they were any closer to a deal.

"We're still having some talks," said Mora's agent Lon Babby, declining to be more specific.

Babby has maintained that he didn't want to put a hard deadline on the negotiations if progress were being made. However, Mora seemed resigned to this being his last season with the club, which acquired him in a 2000 trade with the New York Mets and has watched him become an All-Star and one of the franchise's most popular players.

"I am ready to go play," said Mora, who hit .283 last year with 27 home runs and 88 RBIs. "That's what I think. I am ready to go play and try to make the team win in my final year."

The club had hoped for the negotiations to be kept out of the media, but Mora, who was optimistic that a deal would get done after meeting with Angelos, said he grew tired of being told that he needed to lower his asking price.

"I don't want people to just talk about, `Melvin put the price up there and he hasn't come down,' " Mora said. "That's not true. I came down, and they haven't come up. I don't want to keep coming down. I just want to get an answer from them, and that's it. I want to let the fans know that I want to stay here, that I want to make the deal done.

"I don't want just to run away and try to be greedy. In our family, we're not greedy. When you've been doing a lot for this club, you just want an answer. Good or bad, you just want an answer."

Duquette said he doesn't foresee the contract issue affecting Mora's performance on the field.

"I don't think Melvin's the kind of player that will let it affect him," Duquette said. "He's a professional, and however the negotiations finish, I think he's going to play the season, and I think he's going to have a great year.

"[Mora has] been clear since Day One. When Opening Day's here, he doesn't want to have to think about it. I think that's smart. That's the way to go about it. The dialogue should be between us and the agent anyway."

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