The plan started earlier this year with the signing of outfielder Jay Gibbons and Melvin Mora to multi-year extensions and Orioles vice president Jim Duquette hopes it continues this offseason when the club is looking to lock up two more significant parts of its nucleus.
Duquette acknowledged yesterday that the Orioles will explore multi-year extensions with starting pitcher Erik Bedard and second baseman Brian Roberts in the offseason. Bedard is eligible for free agency after the 2009 season, while Roberts is tied to the club through 2008.
"I think that just like with Jay and Melvin, we view Brian and Bedard as key parts of the future," Duquette said. "It's something that we'll look at and explore and hopefully, they feel the same way."
Roberts and Bedard said yesterday that they'd be interested in talking about long-term deals with the Orioles. Mark Pieper, who represents both players, has not returned calls seeking a comment.
"I'd be lying if I said that I didn't want security after going through what I went through last year," said Roberts, 28, who suffered a serious elbow injury in September that required extensive surgery. "When it boils down to it, this is the only place I've been. I don't know anything different. I love being here and my goal is to see this team win."
Said Bedard: "Yeah, it's something that I'd like to explore. It feels good that they are behind me and they see me as an important piece for this team's future."
Bedard, 27, has emerged as a potential top-of-the-rotation starter this season, going 12-9 with a 3.98 ERA. Meanwhile, Roberts has shown few ill effects from his injury last season with a .294 average, seven home runs, 47 RBIs and 32 stolen bases. Roberts' power also has returned as the season has gone on, a testament to the second baseman being able to return to his workout regimen, which he had to abandon while rehabilitating.
There were some discussions before this season about signing Roberts to a long-term deal, but the Orioles wanted to see how the 2005 All-Star recovered from his ligament-transplant surgery. Duquette said that Roberts' play has eased any uncertainty that the organization had, and that he considers Roberts "one of the best leadoff men in the game."
While Roberts said that he is intrigued by spending his entire career with the Orioles, he also wants to see improvements made with the team before agreeing to stay long term.
"I do think we are headed in the right direction, [but] obviously none of us would deny that we need a couple of pieces to the puzzle," Roberts said. "If we are committed to doing that as an organization, I'd be happy to stay on board. If that's what their goal is, and they are willing to show us that, then I think everybody is willing to be on board.
"You still want to be where you feel like you have a chance to win. Preferably for me, that will be here. I'd love to be one of those guys that plays 10 years, 12 years in the same place. But I don't want to play 10 years for a losing team. As long as they are committed to winning, I am very interested in staying here."
Conine to Philadelphia?
The Orioles have had significant discussions with the Philadelphia Phillies about a trade involving first baseman-outfielder Jeff Conine, according to a club source.
The Orioles are looking for a mid-level prospect from the Phillies in return for Conine, 40, whose contract could pose a hurdle in the deal. Conine has a $2 million option for 2007 in his contract, which will vest if he reaches 450 plate appearances this season. He's on pace to easily eclipse that mark with 420 plate appearances through last night.
According to the source, the Phillies, who just lost starting center fielder Aaron Rowand to what could be a season-ending ankle injury, would like the Orioles to send some financial considerations to help offset the option for next year, but the clubs have not agreed on the amount.
Several teams have shown interest in Conine and reliever LaTroy Hawkins, both of whom cleared waivers recently. The New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals were interested in Conine until they acquired Shawn Green and Preston Wilson, respectively. Colorado also had interest, but it has waned as the Rockies are close to falling out of the playoff picture.
Hawkins has been pursued by several teams, including the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.
Around the horn
Jay Gibbons (shoulder, back spasms) was held out of the lineup last night, but Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo expects him to play tonight. ... Perlozzo said that he expects David Newhan to return to the club when rosters expand Sept. 1.