Agent: O's in mix for Speier

Team among `4 to 5' options

source confirms Hudson trade talk

Orioles

November 19, 2006|By Dan Connolly | Dan Connolly,Sun reporter

Free-agent right-hander Justin Speier would like to sign a new contract soon and the Orioles are "right there in the mix," according to his agent, Chris Arnold.

Arnold said Speier, considered one of the best relievers on the open market, has narrowed his suitors to "four to five" teams, which include the Orioles.

The agent declined to name a favorite or identify the other contenders, though the Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, San Francisco Giants and New York Yankees are reportedly pursuing the 33-year-old, who spent the past three seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Orioles offered Speier a three-year deal worth about $12 million during last week's general managers meetings in Florida. They sweetened it Friday, Orioles vice president Jim Duquette confirmed. He would not reveal specifics of the new offer.

"We've been aggressive with him," Duquette said. "We're trying to pursue him and let him know that he is one of our top choices."

Arnold said at least one club has presented a four-year deal, but at this point the Orioles are thought to be offering only three years for Speier, who was 2-0 with a 2.98 ERA in 58 games last year.

Arnold said contract length is just one factor to consider, but added, "I certainly believe he deserves" four years. One industry source predicts the Red Sox as the favorite partially because they - along with the Giants and Indians - could offer Speier at least an opportunity to compete for the closer's job. The Orioles would use Speier almost exclusively to set up closer Chris Ray.

The Giants are a sentimental pick because Speier's father, Chris, a former All-Star infielder, spent roughly half of his 19-season career in San Francisco. Ultimately, Arnold said, his client expects to make a decision before baseball's winter meetings begin Dec. 4 - and could have it wrapped up this week.

"We'd like to settle in and know where he is going to be for the next three, four years," Arnold said. "So by Christmas - maybe Thanksgiving - when he's at the table and Grandma says, `Where are you playing?' He can say `I'm a Baltimore Oriole' or whatever."

In other Orioles news, left-handed reliever Jamie Walker, who agreed in principle to a three-year, $12 million deal last week, did not come to Baltimore as scheduled Friday because of inclement weather.

He is expected to take his physical here and sign the contract early this week.

Also, an industry source confirmed an ESPN report that the Orioles and Braves have had trade discussions involving Atlanta right-hander Tim Hudson.

The source said the Orioles bristled at dealing left-handed starter Adam Loewen but discussed a package of prospects that included right-hander Hayden Penn.

However, Hudson's hefty contract - he's owed at least $33 million over the next three years - and potential health concerns could prohibit the Orioles from further pursuing the 31-year- old.

Hudson, an ace while in Oakland, made 35 starts for the Braves in 2006 and compiled a career-worst 4.86 ERA.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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