The Baltimore Orioles made their most significant personnel move of the offseason yesterday, agreeing with right-handed pitcher Aaron Sele on a four-year contract worth $29 million and giving the team one of the best starting rotations in the American League.

A signing was not announced as of early last night, pending results of Sele's physical. But Sele remained in Baltimore, ready to appear at a news conference when an announcement is made.

Orioles vice president for baseball operations Syd Thrift could not be reached for comment last night. He and executive vice president John Angelos were putting the final touches on the contract, which will pay Sele $7 million in each of the first three seasons and $8 million in 2003, with a total of $8 million in deferred money.

Sele, 29, chose the Orioles' offer over a similar one from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The Orioles considered him the second-most attractive pitcher on the free agent market this winter, after left-hander Chuck Finley, who signed a three-year, $27 million deal with the Cleveland Indians last month.

The Orioles entered the winter intending not to offer any free agent pitcher a contract of more than three years during negotiations. However, team sources said, when it became apparent it would take a four-year contract to secure Sele, Orioles majority owner Peter Angelos gave the go-ahead.

The Orioles also pursued right-handers Andy Benes and Omar Olivares. Benes signed yesterday with the St. Louis Cardinals for $18 million over three years.

The Orioles will enter the 2000 season with a rotation made up of right-handers--Sele, Mike Mussina, Scott Erickson, Sidney Ponson and Jason Johnson--but one that will rival the New York Yankees' as arguably the best in the league.

Sele, a former first-round draft pick of the Boston Red Sox, was 18-9 with a 4.79 earned run average for the Texas Rangers last season, following a 19-11 season in 1998. He was one of only four pitchers (along with Pedro Martinez, Greg Maddux and Kevin Brown) to win at least 18 games in both seasons.