No-trade clause seals Mora deal

O's third baseman wanted added security

May 20, 2006|By CHILDS WALKER | CHILDS WALKER,SUN REPORTER

Melvin Mora never wanted to leave Baltimore, and once Orioles owner Peter Angelos acceded to a no-trade clause, the third baseman felt reassured enough to sign a three-year contract extension.

The Orioles announced the $24 million deal (with a club option for a fourth year with a $1 million buyout) yesterday afternoon.

"It's been a goal of ours to add not only players of quality, but players who are great people," executive vice president Mike Flanagan said. "I think we've done that certainly with this signing of Melvin Mora."

Flanagan called Mora "the best fielding and hitting third baseman in all of the game."

Angelos always has been reluctant to offer no-trade clauses.

"Melvin's a unique case," Flanagan said. "He really does separate himself from the rest. He lives in the area. He's a member of the community. He's not a player we would really consider trading. So you add all that up and it made some sense to give him that security."

Mora's agent, Lon Babby, said the clause was vital.

"To him, the no-trade I think was the essence of the deal," Babby said. "I don't think the deal gets done without the no-trade. I don't think the deal would have gotten done with a partial no-trade. ... A player only has once or twice in their careers to choose where they play. Free agency is an important right, and to give that up and not be assured that you are going to be where you want to be just didn't make any sense."

Mora has moved his family to the Baltimore area full time and said his love for the community played a large part in the signing. He said he wanted the no-trade clause so badly because he wanted assurances that his family would have a stable life.

Negotiations began in December, and Mora said he didn't want them to carry past spring training. The third baseman initially asked for at least $30 million over three seasons, and the club showed little sign of moving toward that figure.

The sides remained in a stalemate as Opening Day approached.

One seemingly pivotal moment came three days before the opener, when Mora met with Angelos in the owner's office. The meeting didn't produce a tangible compromise but left Mora convinced that Angelos wanted him and wanted a winning team.

"When Mr. Angelos met with me, that's when I started to think about that he wants to make the deal done," Mora said. " ... I saw it in his eyes that he didn't want me to go."

The Orioles were reluctant in part because Mora is 34 and even the greatest third basemen have worn down by 37, the age Mora will be at the end of the deal. But Mora's peak didn't begin until he turned 31, so his career track is already unusual.

"Some guys can play until they're 50," Flanagan said. "Melvin may have another contract coming after this one."

The Orioles didn't have many alternatives at third base. The club doesn't have an elite prospect at the position, and Mora would have been the best third baseman on the free-agent market in the offseason.

Now, they have core stars such as Mora, shortstop Miguel Tejada, second baseman Brian Roberts and catcher Ramon Hernandez signed through at least 2008. Tejada sounded thrilled that his friend had signed.

"I think it's important for the team, and it's more important for him," the shortstop said. "I think he doesn't have to worry about being a free agent. He doesn't have to worry about anything right now. The only thing he has to worry about is playing baseball."

Said Roberts: "If anybody's deserving of it, he definitely deserved it. And it's nice to know that we have our core group signed for a while."

Tejada said the signing is important for fans as well. "Now, they start believing the owners that they really want to win," he said. "Now, they don't let the players go like they did last year with B.J. Ryan."

childs.walker@baltsun.com

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