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Orioles Aren't Done in Pursuit of Delgado

By Jorge Arangure Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 14, 2005; Page D03

BALTIMORE, Jan. 13 -- An uneventful offseason has not caused Baltimore Orioles officials to panic. Instead they continue their slow and steady pursuit of free agent first baseman Carlos Delgado while other teams appear ready to pounce.

Agent David Sloane, who represents Delgado, confirmed he has talked to the Orioles a few times in the past several days. Sloane would not reveal specifics, but no deal with Baltimore appears imminent or even probable at this point.

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"We're continuing to talk," Orioles Executive Vice President Jim Beattie said.

Meanwhile, the New York Mets and Florida Marlins continue their aggressive pursuit of Delgado, who has averaged 37 home runs and 118 RBI the past five years. One industry source said that Delgado, 32, met for 30 minutes with Mets Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon and General Manager Omar Minaya on Thursday in Puerto Rico. Though the talks were informal, the two sides are trying to schedule more serious talks for later this week or early next week.

Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria will meet with Delgado and his representative on Saturday in Florida.

Baltimore has not yet scheduled a meeting with Delgado and has not submitted a second offer for the free agent since a three-year, $30 million initial bid made prior to the winter meetings in mid-December.

On Sunday, Beattie said that the lack of an agreement with Major League Baseball to compensate the Orioles for the presence of the Washington Nationals has hindered Baltimore's pursuit of free agents. Delgado is seeking a deal of $14 million to $17 million a year, demands that have floored Baltimore officials. Delgado's market was set with Carlos Beltran's seven-year, $119 million contract with the Mets and Richie Sexson's four-year, $50 million contract with the Seattle Mariners. Delgado falls somewhere in between.

With their hopes for Delgado dwindling, the Orioles began gathering medical information on free agent outfielder Magglio Ordoñez, who missed most of last season with a knee injury and as a result may command less in salary. Last week, Ordoñez, 30, was reportedly cleared by a doctor to resume baseball activities, but Baltimore has not yet been informed whether he is ready to work out for teams. Beattie said the Orioles were given access to an early medical report on Ordoñez, but have not seen any X-rays or MRIs from last week's doctor's visit. Baltimore team doctors have begun conversations with one of the physicians who recently examined Ordoñez.

As of now, the Orioles have not requested Ordoñez to work out and have only spoken informally with agent Scott Boras.

"We'll let the doctor determine what the next step will be," Beattie said.

Some have speculated that Ordoñez will seek a one-year contract in order to prove his health, then re-enter the free agent market next season. When healthy, Ordoñez is considered one of the best outfielders in baseball. The Orioles aren't likely to pursue Ordoñez if he plans on only signing for one year.

Boras did not return a phone call on Thursday.

It doesn't appear likely the Orioles will make any significant additions to their starting pitching. At the completion of the Randy Johnson trade to the New York Yankees, many assumed the Arizona Diamondbacks would trade Javier Vazquez, who has stated a desire to play on the East Coast. The Orioles appeared to be a possible destination and the club had internally expressed some interest. But in a meeting on Monday between Vazquez, his agents and Arizona General Manager Joe Garagiola Jr., the team expressed a desire to keep the pitcher.

"Our plans are for him to be at the top of our rotation," Garagiola said. "I think he came away with much more positive feelings about the Diamondbacks. We have done some things since the close of the season that should make us a better team. I think Javy recognized that."

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