Roberts, O's close to 1-year contract

Long-term deal still on the table, according to source

February 01, 2007|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,Sun reporter

While continuing to discuss a long-term contract extension with Brian Roberts, the Orioles are closing in on a one-year deal with the second baseman that, in the short term, will help the two sides avoid salary arbitration.

The one-year deal, which could be finalized and announced as early as today, according to a source close to the negotiations, likely will be for about $4.2 million, the midpoint of the arbitration figures filed by both parties in mid-January. Roberts asked for $4.6 million, and the Orioles offered $3.8 million.

Roberts, who made a base salary of $3.6 million last season while hitting .286 with 10 home runs, 55 RBIs, 85 runs and 36 steals in 138 games, is under Orioles contractual control through the 2008 season.

Orioles vice president Jim Duquette and executive vice president Mike Flanagan vowed this offseason to explore a contract extension with Roberts and started preliminary talks with agent Mark Pieper in December.

Though one source said some progress has been made toward an extension and talks are continuing, the signing of a one-year deal might be a sign that the sides are still far apart on a longer-term agreement.

According to one source, there has been discussion about a three-year deal that essentially would buy out one of the 29-year-old's free-agent years and, barring a trade, keep Roberts an Oriole through the 2009 season.

Roberts, whose playing future was in doubt after a serious arm injury late in the 2005 season that required extensive surgery, nearly was traded to the Atlanta Braves in December.

But club owner Peter Angelos, a longtime admirer of Roberts' work and character on and off the field, nixed a deal that would have sent the second baseman and pitcher Hayden Penn to the Braves for first baseman Adam LaRoche and second baseman Marcus Giles.

If the Orioles complete the one-year deal with Roberts, it would leave center fielder Corey Patterson and pitcher Erik Bedard as their remaining arbitration-eligible players. Patterson is seeking $4.6 million, and the Orioles are offering $4 million. Bedard, also represented by Pieper, filed for $4 million and the Orioles offered $2.7 million.

If agreements can't be reached with Patterson and Bedard, their arbitration hearings will be heard in Phoenix on Feb. 19 and 20, respectively.

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