Mussina, O's far apart on contract Pitcher wants five seasons; club has proposed three; $15 million gap exists; Free agency after '97 remains a possibility


Contract negotiations between ace Mike Mussina and the Orioles are bogged down, according to league sources, and the two sides are far from reaching an agreement on a long-term deal.

There is the possibility that Mussina's agent, Arn Tellem, or the Orioles will make the concessions necessary to complete the deal. But the current gap is enormous.

Tellem, sources say, wants nothing less than what right-hander Alex Fernandez received from the Florida Marlins -- five years and $35 million.

The Orioles, on the other hand, have forwarded a three-year proposal in the range of $6.6 million per year, with a fourth-year option that would vest automatically if Mussina pitches a specified number of innings.

The difference between the respective proposals, then, in guaranteed dollars, is in the neighborhood of $15 million.

If they don't bridge the gap, and settle for a one-year deal, Mussina, who was 19-11 with a 4.81 ERA last season, will be eligible for free agency after the 1997 season.

He is eligible for arbitration this year, asking for $7.1 million while the club is offering $6.55 million. The hearing is scheduled for Feb. 21.

Orioles general manager Pat Gillick declined to comment on the specifics of the Mussina negotiations. "We're talking to them," Gillick said, "and we'll continue to talk."

The talks are expected to resume next week.

Pub Date: 2/07/97

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