O's up bid; Mets back in pursuit of Delgado

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Another day passed without free-agent first baseman Carlos Delgado choosing which team he'll play for in 2005 and beyond. Another day when rumors swirled, reports conflicted and the number of teams vying for his services returned to three.

Eliminated by agent David Sloane late Sunday night, the New York Mets sprung to life again yesterday morning. The two sides resumed discussions, and it's believed the Mets have the best offer on the table - four years and more than $50 million.

The Orioles, meanwhile, have increased their offer to at least $48 million over four years, industry sources said, and Sloane spoke again yesterday with executive vice president Jim Beattie.

Speculation within the industry has the Orioles holding firm with their latest offer, which comes after they made a three-year, $25 million proposal before the winter meetings that included a sizable club option for 2008 and performance and award bonuses. The Orioles subsequently raised their offer to $30 million over three years.

The New York Times reported late last night that the Orioles' offer could be $51 million.

It's unlikely the Orioles will let negotiations drag on much longer despite targeting Delgado immediately after teams were allowed to begin negotiations with free agents.

Beattie declined to comment yesterday.

The Florida Marlins, the third contestant in the Delgado sweepstakes, are believed to have made a three-year, $36 million proposal that includes an option for 2008. A source with the Marlins indicated last night that adding a fourth year wouldn't be a problem, but with their payroll at $60 million, any deal would have to be heavily backloaded with deferred money.

In his daily e-mail, Sloane wrote: "I spoke to the Marlins, Mets and Orioles today regarding our respective proposals. Carlos and I also talked about all three offers. There will be further discussion tomorrow with all the concerned parties. Until then, I will have no further comment."

Earlier in the day, Sloane told The Sun, "The Mets, Marlins and Orioles are in the race."

Delgado could make his decision as early as today, though the negotiations and perceived favorites seem to change every hour.

In a short amount of time, the Mets went from front-runners to elimination on Sunday, when Sloane told ESPN they no longer were under consideration. Reports out of New York said Mets officials were "shocked and livid" - feelings they put aside yesterday.

The Mets offered Delgado $33 million over three years after meeting with him Thursday in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and they increased their offer over the weekend to keep up with the Texas Rangers, who countered at $48 million over four years. Both teams wanted an answer by Sunday night, and the Rangers dropped out rather than engage in a bidding war.

Sloane reportedly was upset at being pressed for a decision. And Delgado no longer had interest in the Rangers after finding out he'd have to serve primarily as the designated hitter, with Severna Park native Mark Teixeira staying at first base.

A source in Texas said the Rangers have no intention of re-entering the bidding.

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