O's eye L. Gonzalez to fill left field void

Team makes one-year offer to veteran, 39

Orioles

December 03, 2006|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,Sun Reporter

Continuing their quest to add a run-producing left fielder, the Orioles have set their sights on Arizona Diamondbacks free agent Luis Gonzalez. An industry source confirmed yesterday that the Orioles made Gonzalez, who has 331 career home runs, a one-year contract offer Friday night.

Terms of the one-year offer aren't known, but speculation around baseball is that Gonzalez, 39, will command about $8 million per season.

Gonzalez's agent, Gregg Clifton, was unavailable to comment yesterday, but Terry Bross, who also represents the outfielder, was quoted by the Arizona Republic in yesterday's editions that the Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers have made offers to Gonzalez and they anticipate two or three more offers from other clubs.

It has been speculated that Gonzalez would prefer to stay on the West Coast, which could make the Orioles a long shot, considering the Dodgers and Seattle Mariners are reportedly interested. However, Clifton said early last week that his client has noticed how active the Orioles have been this offseason and is interested in playing in Baltimore.

The Orioles' Brian Roberts and Jay Gibbons have been training this offseason in Arizona near where Gonzalez lives, and both are helping to recruit the player, who hosted the two Orioles at an Arizona Cardinals football game a couple of weeks ago.

Gonzalez was once considered one of the game's most feared hitters, but his numbers have sagged the past few seasons. Last season, he hit .271 with 15 homers and 73 RBIs, plus 52 doubles in 153 games.

Gonzalez hit 26 or more homers and drove in 100 or more runs in every season from 1999 to 2003, with 2001 being clearly his best year. That year, he had 57 home runs and 142 RBIs.

In other Orioles news:

The club finalized a one-year deal with first baseman-designated hitter Kevin Millar yesterday. The deal, which will pay Millar a base salary of $2.75 million next season, also includes a vesting option for the 2008 season based on plate appearances.

Barring a trade, Millar, who hit .272 with 15 home runs and 64 RBIs in 132 games for the Orioles last season, will head into spring training sharing first base and designated hitter duties with Gibbons.

"I am excited to come back, to see what kind of improvements we can make," said Millar earlier last week after reaching an oral agreement with the Orioles. "I don't think they need to worry about first base. Look elsewhere."

The team outrighted right-handed relievers Brian Finch and Cory Morris to Triple-A Norfolk. Finch was 6-12 with a 3.65 ERA at Double-A Bowie last year, while Morris was 2-9 with a 3.81 ERA in stints with Single-A Aberdeen, Bowie and Triple-A Ottawa.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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