The Orioles yesterday improved their offer to first-round draft choice Darnell McDonald but remain uncertain whether they will be able to sign him.
McDonald, the No. 26 overall pick, is scheduled to begin football practice with the University of Texas within the next two weeks. Orioles officials say they have not yet received a counterproposal from McDonald or adviser Jeff Moorad.
"It's getting to the point where they're going to have to make some decisions," said Orioles director of scouting Gary Nickels.
At issue is whether McDonald, a two-sport star from Colorado considered by some scouts the draft's most gifted player, should be paid in line with the market or if he represents a special circumstance. The difference is huge. This year's No. 1 choice is expected to receive around $2.2 million. However, high school pitcher Matt White and San Diego State first baseman Travis Lee received record $10 million packages after being declared free agents by an arbiter last summer.
The Orioles are thought ready to make McDonald the highest-paid draftee but are unwilling to enter the neighborhood settled by White and Lee. They already have signed their first pick, Dennis Werth, for $875,000 and have signed 19 of their 43 picks overall.
Negotiations can continue while McDonald works with the Longhorns football team but must end when he attends his first class.
Pub Date: 7/30/97