Melvin Mora wanted to remain an Oriole for the foreseeable future, and never wavered. The Orioles didn't want to lose a player who has become an All-Star in their uniform and one of the faces of the franchise.
After nearly four months of negotiations on a contract extension that often produced little but frustration, both the third baseman and the team have gotten their wish. Mora took a physical yesterday and has verbally agreed to a three-year deal with an option for a fourth season worth a guaranteed $25 million, said sources with knowledge of the negotiations.
Reached by phone last night, Mora said he has not signed the deal and wants to meet with his agent, Lon Babby, today to go over the contract one more time.
"We haven't finalized anything but tomorrow we'll know," said Mora, 34, who is hitting .288 with seven home runs and 20 RBIs in 40 games this season. "I have to look at the contract, look at all the clauses there and we'll see what happens."
There will be a news conference today at Camden Yards announcing the deal before the Orioles head to Washington for a three-game series against the Nationals.
Both sides have expressed some hesitation publicly discussing the situation with the contract unsigned and because the process has taken several twists since Babby and the Orioles started talks in December.
Mora, in the final season of a three-year, $10.5 million deal that he has substantially outperformed, was initially seeking a three-year deal worth about $10 million a season, before he lowered his demands. Mora's new deal will pay him $24 million over three seasons with a $1 million buyout for the option year. The contract also will include a no-trade clause for the first three seasons, according to sources close to the negotiations.
Orioles officials have maintained all along that re-signing Mora and keeping the nucleus of the team together was a priority. They will now have Mora, shortstop Miguel Tejada, catcher Ramon Hernandez, outfielders Jay Gibbons and Nick Markakis, starting pitchers Erik Bedard and Daniel Cabrera and closer Chris Ray under contract through the 2009 season.
All-Star second baseman Brian Roberts is signed through 2008, and he appears to be the next in line, following Gibbons and Mora, for an extension.
Mora, a former utility player, has become one of the most productive third basemen in the league after making the transition to the position in 2004. He has 54 home runs and 192 RBIs over the previous two seasons, with All-Star recognition in 2003 and 2005.
The affable Venezuelan has also been one of the franchise's most popular players since being acquired from the New York Mets in a 2000 trade for Mike Bordick. He is one of the few Orioles to live year-round in the Baltimore area as he resides in Harford County with his wife Gisel, and their six kids.
This offseason, Mora helped broker a conversation between vice president Jim Duquette and Tejada that led to Tejada rescinding his trade demand.
Mora set a deadline of Opening Day to have a deal done or he would cut off negotiations and likely become a free agent. But after a meeting with team owner Peter Angelos on March 31, he reluctantly allowed the talks to continue as long as they didn't serve as a distraction.
"It would be great if the deal is done," Mora said last night. "I hope so, especially for the fans. I love the fans."
Note -- The Orioles traded a player to be determined to Cleveland yesterday for minor league outfielder Todd Donovan. In 24 games at Double-A Akron, Donovan, 27, hit .289 with 17 stolen bases in 20 attempts, four doubles and three RBIs. email@example.com
Sun reporter Dan Connolly contributed to this article.