Though no serious contract negotiations have taken place, likely Hall of Fame outfielder Sammy Sosa -- after only three months in an Orioles uniform -- has decided he would like to remain in Baltimore for the rest of his career.
Sosa said he sees the Orioles as a team that can contend in the future. He sees Baltimore as a city where he can live in peace. And he sees the Orioles as a unified team. Now he must play well enough to earn a new contract.
"This is a business I know, but I'd like to finish my career here," Sosa said. "But I know I have to put up my usual numbers. If my numbers aren't there, then it's a different situation. I know I'm helping the team, but I know my numbers have to be there."
Sosa, 36, will make $25 million this season, which includes a base salary plus bonuses. Part of the reason Sosa sacrificed a clause in his contract that would have triggered an $18 million option if he was traded from Chicago was not only to facilitate being sent to the Orioles, but also so that he could become a free agent after the season. So far that gamble has not played in Sosa's favor.
Sosa is hitting .248 with six home runs and 18 RBI and missed two weeks of the season with an abscess and staph infection in his left foot. He is on pace to hit only 16 home runs this season. Perhaps for those reasons, Baltimore has not engaged Sosa's representatives in negotiations for a contract extension.
"I think there's definitely been mutual interest expressed," said Adam Katz, Sosa's agent. "We'll get to it in due course when both sides are ready."
The Orioles appear in no hurry to start those negotiations, though both sides are open to discussing an extension during the season.
"We're just really concentrating on this year," said Ed Kenney, Baltimore's director of baseball administration. "It hasn't been really discussed. Right now we're not looking at anything except this year."
But several of Sosa's teammates, including Miguel Tejada, argue Sosa's value goes beyond the statistics. Tejada believes he's been protected in the batting order by Sosa. Sosa has also acted as a positive influence to some of his younger teammates.
"We've been very happy with him," Kenney said. "He's done a great job of fitting in. It's just a matter of getting him going swinging the bat. I think everybody thinks he will do that."
Sosa has fit in comfortably with the Orioles. Anecdotes abounded about Sosa causing problems in the Chicago Cubs' clubhouse -- arriving late, playing loud music -- but with the Orioles, he has arrived early and is seldom heard.
On Wednesday, Tejada -- the team's most visible player -- arrived to the ballpark late and almost missed a scheduled television appearance. He rushed into the clubhouse, dressed and rushed back outside to go on camera. Sosa had arrived more than an hour earlier. While Tejada frantically tried to get ready, Sosa calmly sat in front of a television watching video replays of his swing.
"This is a place that has given me some tranquility in my life and some energy to play," Sosa said Wednesday evening. "And we're playing really well. For whatever reason, we've been playing well and everything has gone well. I'd like to finish my career here, but it's very important to keep doing the work I've been doing and make the adjustments. All my life I've hit well. I think there was something in my swing that wasn't right, but I think I've located it and I think everything will go well now."
Sosa said the foot, which caused him to miss 16 games, still bothers him and may explain the problems with his mechanics. He said that during his slump after the injury, he would often stay on his right leg too long, which took away from his power, but thinks he has corrected the problem.
"When you come to this league you have to make adjustments," Sosa said. "This is a league where there's very good pitching, different from the National League. You have to make adjustments, and that's really what I have to do. It's a new park, I'm facing new pitchers, so there's a lot of things I still need to learn. This is really my first time in this league. It's been 14 years since I've played in this league. You notice there is a difference."
Sosa said there is no hurry to start negotiations and isn't pressing to get a new deal signed.
"This is not the time to talk about those things," Sosa said. "We're playing very well right now. We're doing something very special. I don't worry about those things."