Brian Roberts has spent 13 years in the major leagues, all with… (Doug Kapustin, Reuters )
Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts concedes that he's had passing thoughts over the past several weeks about whether these might be his final days in the only major league uniform he's ever worn.
"Oh, sure, I think everybody thinks about their future at some point," Roberts said. "I've tried not to really dwell on it, but there are times when you definitely want to know what's next for you, when there's no assurance of anything you don't really know. You just kind of walk by faith."
The club's longest-tenured player has spent his entire 13-year big league career as an Oriole, many of those seasons as one of the faces of the franchise. And as the end of a four-year, $40 million contract signed before the 2010 season approaches, Roberts, who will turn 36 on Oct. 9, says he'd like to remain an Oriole.
"I would obviously love to play my whole career in one place," Roberts said. "I love the guys here, I love the team. I love being around everybody. The organization has stood behind me through a lot of stuff, and now that we've got this organization going in the right direction, it's a great place to be and a great place to be a part of. Certainly, if I had all my choices, this would be my first one."
Injuries marred much of his past four seasons. He battled multiple concussions, back and hip injuries, and missed 12 weeks earlier this season with a right hamstring injury he suffered in the third game of the regular season.
Roberts entered this weekend's final series with Boston with 74 games played this season, his most since 2009. His ability to work counts, while mostly hitting from the No. 9 hole, has been welcome in an aggressive Orioles batting order. Entering Friday night's game, he had a .246/.310/.381 slash line this season.
"Brian Roberts has done a nice job," Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said when asked about Roberts' future with the club. "He's done a nice job being a setup hitter and showing good patience at the plate and [has] come around defensively and made some good plays. I appreciate that he's done, and I also appreciate the work that he does as a patient hitter, staying in proportion to the strike zone at the plate. I think that's a good role model for all our players."
This season was Roberts' first taste of playing in a pennant race — he played in just 17 games for last year's playoff team, none past early July — and the team's bright future is a major reason why he wants to return.
"All those 12 years of losing, this is the reason I re-signed several times," Roberts said. "We thought we might get here, and it took a long time to get here, but now you want to be a part of it as long as you can."
The Orioles have positioned themselves for the future at second base with Ryan Flaherty, who started regularly at second in Roberts' absence this season, and top position-player prospect Jonathan Schoop.
"I think any organization would like to have Brian," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "We'll just see. … There's a lot of variables there. Brian's got some good baseball ahead of him, especially if he stays healthy, which he has for an extended period of time. Every situation, the dynamic is different. You've just got to let it play out and see where we are when the season's done."
The free-agent market for second basemen isn't deep. New York Yankees star Robinson Cano is seeking a 10-year, $305 million deal, a price tag that will eliminate him from several clubs' wish lists. The remaining top free-agent alternatives are the Detroit Tigers' Omar Infante, the Tampa Bay Rays' Kelly Johnson and the Los Angeles Dodgers' Mark Ellis, meaning Roberts could receive significant interest on the open market.
But Roberts said money is secondary to the chance to stay in Baltimore, where he has lived for the past eight years and planted roots with his wife, Diana, and baby boy Jax Isaac, who was born in August. He indicated that he's open to an incentive-laden deal.
"At this point in my career, it's really going to be about what the opportunities are and where you want to be, where you want you and your family to be, and what that looks like," Roberts said. "There could be a lot of factors that go into it, but money certainly won't be the No. 1 one."