The decision to postpone the opener with the Kansas City Royals bought the Orioles one more day to negotiate with potential free agents Cal Ripken, Mike Mussina and Brady Anderson, but it passed without any of them agreeing to contract extensions.
There have been reports that Ripken is close to agreeing to a contract that calls for two years guaranteed and a club option on the 2000 season, but negotiations are in danger of breaking down if the deal is not completed by this afternoon.
The Orioles have offered Ripken $6.2 million for each year and a $2 million buyout if they do not exercise the option on the final bTC year of the deal. He apparently has agreed to give up his demand that the club guarantee the third year, but is holding out for a slight improvement in the base salary.
Ripken has made it clear, however, that he does not want to repeat the debacle of 1992, when he negotiated throughout the season and struggled afield. He has said he will not negotiate after the start of the season, which could increase the chance -- though still considered slight -- that he will test free agency in November.
Club sources have confirmed that Orioles owner Peter Angelos has been negotiating personally with Ripken, and that the gap between them has narrowed to just a few hundred thousand dollars.
Negotiations with Mussina already appear to be dormant, even though the only significant thing standing between the club and its top pitcher was the amount of his three-year extension that would be deferred. The club is believed to be holding firm to a demand that $1.5 million of each year's salary be deferred three years without interest.
Mussina likely would sign a multi-year deal if the club would reduce the amount of the deferral -- or agree to pay some interest on the deferred amount -- but he also has made it clear that he will not negotiate once the season starts. If the arm problem that will keep him out of today's game turns out to be minor, he figures to command $35 million to $40 million on the open market in November.
"As of now, we're happy to wait," said agent Arn Tellem, who negotiated the record $55 million deal for Albert Belle last November. "I'm just assuming we're off until November, and that's fine.
"Don't get me wrong. There are no hard feelings. The Orioles are in the first position to sign Mike. We're going to give them every shot to get a deal made so Mike can stay here."
Anderson is the only one of the three who has not pledged to cut off negotiations after the season starts. He also has made no secret of his desire to stay here and likely will sign a three-year extension during the season.
Pub Date: 4/02/97