Price still not right for O's, Wieters

O's, Wieters still far apart

August 15, 2007|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,Sun reporter

NEW YORK -- Less than 24 hours before the deadline to sign draft picks, the Orioles remain about $5 million apart from reaching a deal with their top selection, Georgia Tech catcher Matt Wieters.

And while team officials maintain they haven't given up hope of signing the fifth overall pick, it will take a dramatic change to reach an agreement before tonight's midnight cutoff.

According to club sources, Wieters' adviser, Scott Boras, is asking for a deal that slightly exceeds the approximately $10.6 million deal that Mount St. Joseph graduate Mark Teixeira signed after he was drafted by the Texas Rangers in 2001. Meanwhile, the Orioles have sweetened their offer in recent days to a little less than $6 million.

"I don't believe there is any reason to comment on ongoing negotiations," said Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail, who is handling negotiations with Boras. "We've got some time left, and hopefully things will work out."

The most the Orioles have paid a draft pick was the $4.02 million deal that pitcher Adam Loewen, the team's fourth overall selection in 2002, signed in May 2003. That contract included a $3.2 million signing bonus.

Boras' asking price is nearly three times more than Loewen's deal and five times more than what the commissioner's office has proposed the fifth overall pick should be worth, approximately $2.25 million.

Wieters' asking price could have been affected by a contract reached yesterday by another draft pick who is Boras' client, Rick Porcello. The pitcher, selected 27th in the first round out of a New Jersey high school, agreed to a four-year deal with the Detroit Tigers for $7.28 million.

According to sources, it is unlikely the Orioles will significantly increase their offer by tonight's deadline. So whether a deal gets done may depend on how much Wieters, a 21-year-old, 6-foot-5, switch-hitting catcher, wants to start his professional career now rather than return to Georgia Tech for his senior season.

If Wieters is not signed by midnight, the Orioles would lose negotiating rights with him, and he likely would return to college. The Orioles then would gain a compensatory pick in next year's draft. The pick could be as early as No. 6 or as late as No. 9, depending on whether the teams that picked before them in this June's draft are able to sign their top picks. Three of the top five picks are unsigned.

"You like to get players signed," MacPhail said. "The only difference this year is rather than getting compensation that would be pick 42 or whatever, now in the event you don't sign [a first-rounder] this year, you get like compensation. So it is more deferring a pick than losing a pick. But that doesn't alter the fact that you'd like to get signed those that you draft."

If they are unable to sign Wieters, the Orioles might have a chance to draft him again next year, but they would first need to get signed consent from Wieters. It's highly unlikely that would happen.

The Orioles also have not signed their fifth-round pick, Texas Christian right-handed pitcher Jacob Arrieta, who is also being advised by Boras. However, team officials seem optimistic the two sides could reach an agreement before tonight's deadline. It likely will take a deal in the $1 million range.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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