BALTIMORE, Jan. 23 -- After laying low in negotiations for free agent slugger Carlos Delgado for most of the offseason, the Baltimore Orioles are now one of two finalists for the first baseman, according to a source close to the negotiations.
Baltimore has made an aggressive push for Delgado within the last two days and the free agent is expected to make a decision soon, possibly today, between Baltimore and the Florida Marlins. There are several conflicting reports whether the Orioles have offered a four-year, $48 million deal for Delgado, and neither agent David Sloane nor Orioles Executive Vice President Jim Beattie would confirm or deny that the Orioles made such a bid.
That the Orioles and Marlins are the leading contenders for Delgado must be considered a tremendous surprise. Both were long shots at the start of the weekend when the Texas Rangers offered a four-year, $48 million deal. But Texas's offer came with the condition that Delgado accept the deal by Sunday night. Instead, the Rangers pulled out of the running. The New York Mets also pulled out of the running late Sunday night.
With a seemingly unending budget, one that has already helped sign Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran to long, multimillion dollar deals, the Mets appeared to be the favorites. So much so, that several reports had them close to a deal for Delgado.
But late Sunday night, Delgado limited his options to Florida and Baltimore. The Orioles began their bid for Delgado in December when they made an initial three-year, $25 million offer prior to the winter meetings. Beattie, Vice President Mike Flanagan and Manager Lee Mazzilli met with Sloane at the winter meetings, but did not change their offer.
They did not increase their offer until this weekend.
All along the Orioles said they were waiting for Delgado's market to be set. It appears, for the moment, their strategy has paid off.