The Orioles agreed to a one-year contract worth about $1.6 million with Luis Matos yesterday, avoiding arbitration with the center fielder.
It constitutes about a $600,000 raise for Matos, who made $1.025 million in an injury-hampered 2005 season. He hit .280 with four homers and 32 RBIs but annoyed club officials, who questioned his conditioning and focus.
Matos, whose name has been mentioned in trade discussions this offseason, is expected to compete with newly acquired Corey Patterson and top prospect Nick Markakis for the starting center-field spot this spring.
His signing leaves the Orioles with two arbitration cases - they are still in talks with pitcher Rodrigo Lopez and All-Star second baseman Brian Roberts - after starting the period with a league-high nine.
Roberts is seeking $3.6 million, and the Orioles are countering with $2.4 million. Lopez is asking for $4.5 million; the Orioles offered $3.75 million.
Matos, however, was a priority because his case was scheduled to be heard by an independent arbiter Wednesday. He had asked for $2 million and the Orioles had offered $1.3 million.
The Orioles also agreed to terms yesterday with four other players for the 2006 season, including reliever Tim Byrdak, who was 0-1 with a 4.05 ERA in 41 games last season. The others were relievers Sendy Rleal and Marino Salas and outfielder Val Majewski.