The Orioles increased their offer to pitcher Mike Mussina yesterday, pushing the potential value of the contract to $28 million.
According to league sources, the Orioles' latest offer includes $7 million a year in salary, and if Mussina pitches a specified number of innings in the third year of the contract, the fourth year -- the option year -- would vest automatically.
If Mussina were to play for four years, he would receive $28 million, although the real value of the contract would be less than that, because $8 million of the $28 million would be deferred.
The Orioles' prior offer had been four years, $26.67 million, with $20 million guaranteed and approximately $1.67 million deferred in each year of the contract. The Orioles effectively added $1 million in guaranteed money and $1.33 million over four years, all of it deferred.
Mussina could not be reached for comment. Orioles counsel Russell Smouse, who is handling the negotiations for the team, wouldn't confirm or comment on the specifics of the latest offer.
"We did make what we believe is a significant increase in our numbers," said Smouse. "We're hoping to get the matter resolved shortly."
The Orioles and Mussina's agent, Arn Tellem, are working against a deadline, of sorts. Mussina is eligible for arbitration, and his hearing is scheduled for Feb. 21.
He's asking for $7.1 million for 1997, and the club is offering $6.55 million.
"Something's going to have to be done soon," said a source familiar with the talks. "That arbitration date is right around the corner."
Mussina, the Orioles' best pitcher, will be eligible to become a free agent after this season. Tellem, according to sources, has told the Orioles that Mussina should get at least what the Florida Marlins paid right-hander Alex Fernandez, $35 million over five years.
The Orioles are expected to resume negotiations with third baseman Cal Ripken this week. Sources say Ripken is looking for a three-year deal, worth between $21 million and $22.5 million.
Pub Date: 2/11/97