O's sign Patterson to $4.3M contract

Center fielder avoids arbitration with 1-year deal

February 09, 2007|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,Sun Reporter

The Orioles signed center fielder Corey Patterson yesterday to a one-year deal, leaving starting pitcher Erik Bedard as the club's only remaining arbitration-eligible player.

Patterson will make a base salary of $4.3 million in 2007, the midpoint between the Orioles' offer ($4 million) and the number ($4.6 million) filed by Patterson's agent, Scott Boras.

"The process is made to negotiate a deal," Orioles vice president Jim Duquette said. "We've had a willingness and a track record here of winning arbitration cases, but you never want to go. It's only when you feel like the other side is being unreasonable when you want to go. There were a couple of signings within the class that made it apparent that a midpoint settlement would be a proper one."

Patterson, 27, will be eligible for free agency after this season. The Orioles have not discussed a long-term contract extension with Patterson, and Duquette said he doesn't expect to have any talks until after the season.

"We're hopeful and focused on him having a good year," he said. "We'll see where that takes us at the end of the year. Right now if we're talking 2008, we're getting ahead of ourselves."

Patterson was a pleasant surprise last season for the Orioles, who acquired the speedy center fielder in January 2006 from the Chicago Cubs for two minor leaguers.

Along with playing a solid and at times spectacular center field, Patterson hit .276 with 16 home runs and 53 RBIs and stole 45 bases in 54 attempts. His batting average was 61 points higher than it was in 2005 in his final season in Chicago.

Patterson is expected to be the club's regular center fielder, but the offseason signing of right-handed-hitting Jay Payton, who can play all three outfield positions, could send Patterson to the bench against left-handed pitching. He hit just .207 against lefties last year. Duquette said Patterson will get plenty of chances in spring training to prove that he can hit left-handers.

Duquette said that not much progress has been made in negotiations with Mark Pieper, the agent for Bedard.

The Orioles made a $2.7 million offer to their likely Opening Day starter, while Bedard asked for $4 million.

If they cannot come to an agreement, an arbitrator will hear the case Feb. 20.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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