Mora, O's closing gap on new contract

Sources see agreement near on 3-year, $26 million extension for third baseman


NEW YORK -- After nearly four months of negotiations that often produced frustration for both parties, the Orioles have moved closer to a contract extension with All-Star third baseman Melvin Mora, according to two club sources familiar with the negotiations.

Though nothing appears imminent, the sides have made extensive progress in the past 48 hours on what is believed to be a three-year deal in the neighborhood of $26 million, said the sources.

Orioles officials declined to comment and Mora's agent, Lon Babby, did not return a call. Asked about the negotiations after the Orioles' 6-1 loss yesterday at Yankee Stadium, Mora said he wasn't aware of any developments.

About two weeks ago, Babby and Mora said they were cutting off negotiations, citing a lack of progress. The strategy would also allow Mora to concentrate on the season.

"We've worked at if for four months and not enough progress was made to continue those discussions," Babby said at the time.

But according to sources, many of the sticking points have been resolved and the deal potentially could be finalized in a couple of days.

In the last year of a three-year, $10.5 million contract, Mora maintained all along that he wanted to have an extension reached before the end of spring training, or he'd be open to free agency. If he opted to go that route, Mora would likely be the top third baseman on the free-agent market.

The two-time All-Star's frustration has grown considerably throughout the process, which included a one-on-one meeting with club owner Peter Angelos on March 31, a talk Mora said was beneficial to the process.

Mora, 34, who originally sought a three-year deal (with an option for a fourth season) worth $10.25 million a year, dropped his asking price to three years and $27 million shortly before the season. The Orioles stuck with a three-year offer for $24 million.

This season, Mora is hitting .273 with four home runs and 11 RBIs.

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