Orioles president Andy MacPhail reiterated yesterday that contract extensions for second baseman Brian Roberts and outfielder Nick Markakis are among the organization's offseason priorities and that the team has talked "generalities" with the agents of the two players.
Although there hasn't been real movement on extensions for either player, that's expected to change in the coming days.
"I would say we're still in the initial contact phase, but there have been conversations as it relates to both players," MacPhail said. "We have plenty of time to talk to the two of them, but it's not a horse race. It's not one over the other or one ahead of the other. We're interested in talking to them both."
Roberts, a two-time All-Star and the second-longest-tenured Oriole, would certainly appear to be the more pressing concern. Markakis is arbitration-eligible for the first time and under the club's contractual control through the 2011 season, but Roberts can become a free agent after 2009.
Roberts has said he wouldn't be interested in having contract talks once spring training begins. That's why it was expected this offseason that the Orioles would gauge Roberts' interest in staying long-term and entertain trade talks if a deal couldn't be reached. A number of teams, including several clubs that expressed interest in Roberts in the past, are looking to acquire a second baseman. But MacPhail said the Orioles' focus is to retain Roberts, not trade him.
"When you talk about an extension in good faith, you ought to follow through on the extension talk first," MacPhail said. "I don't think you talk extension to trade him."
Markakis engaged in contract talks with the club during the season, but the two sides didn't come close to reaching agreement. But Markakis, who got married last week and is planning on making Baltimore his year-round home, is interested in discussing a long-term deal, as are the Orioles.
"They are free to mull it over and do what is in their best interest," MacPhail said. "We haven't gotten anywhere near the numbers or the years. It's still in initial stages."
Around the horn
Still seeking a long-term spring home after plans to renovate Fort Lauderdale Stadium fell through, the Orioles appear to have as many as four options and no competition for any of them.
On Tuesday, the Lee County (Fla.) commissioners approved an agreement with the Boston Red Sox to build a new facility for the team in Fort Myers. If the Red Sox approve the deal, that would leave Fort Lauderdale, Sarasota, Vero Beach and Fort Myers - the complex that the Red Sox currently train in would become vacant with Boston's move - as potential suitors for a team and the Orioles as the only club looking for a spring training home.
The Vero Beach Press Journal reported this week that Vero Beach officials were expected to meet yesterday with Orioles officials to continue talking about the team's relocating to Dodgertown. A negotiation agreement between the Orioles and Indian River County and Vero Beach officials ends tomorrow, but talks could continue.
The Orioles' spring home will remain in Fort Lauderdale at least through 2009. ...
Joe Jordan (director of scouting), Scott Proefrock (director of baseball administration) and David Stockstill (director of player development) have signed multiyear extensions. ... Manager Dave Trembley's staff from 2008 will return intact.