- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 13, 2000

Career years at the plate are not bringing Mike Bordick and Charles Johnson any closer to new contracts with the Baltimore Orioles.

Both Bordick, the Orioles' shortstop, and Johnson, their catcher, are free agents after this season, but the Orioles have yet to make any overtures to lock either player to a long-term deal.

The agents for both players said yesterday they have not had any talks with the Orioles regarding contracts since spring training. Both Scott Boras, who represents Johnson, and Joe Bick, the agent for Bordick, said their clients would prefer to remain in Baltimore.

"We have told the Orioles that Baltimore is a place where Charles likes to play and where he would prefer to remain," Boras said from his office in Los Angeles. "I have let the Orioles know that if there is something that they, including [Orioles owner Peter Angelos], wants to say, we're open to listening, but we haven't heard from them."

Bick said that he and Syd Thrift, the Orioles' vice president for baseball operations, have not had any negotiations since a brief discussion in March.

"The Orioles know we're approachable whenever they're ready to start talking," the Cincinnati-based Bick said. "Mike loves it in Baltimore, and his family is very comfortable there. If at all possible, he wants to stay."

Calls to the Orioles were not returned.

Barring a sudden surge that brings them back into playoff contention, the Orioles, who open tonight's series with the Texas Rangers eight games under .500, are expected to begin shopping some of their more desirable players in an attempt to get younger, faster and less expensive.

Both Bordick and Johnson would have considerable value in the trade market, and the Orioles' lack of urgency toward re-signing them only fuels speculation the club will solicit offers.

Several contenders have expressed interest in both players. St. Louis is one of several teams that would like to upgrade behind the plate, while Arizona has expressed interest in Bordick.

Both players are seeking long-term deals. Johnson, who turns 29 next month, wants at least five years, while Bordick, 34 next month, is seeking a four- or five-year pact.

"There are some factors that go into how long a deal he is seeking, like how long he wants to play, but ideally he'd like this to be the last contract of his career," Bick said.

This season Johnson is being paid $4.6 million, while Bordick is earning $3.08 million. Neither agent would reveal the financial terms they are seeking, but several baseball sources said Johnson wants an average of $7 million while Bordick is seeking about $5 million a year.

"Mike has been among the best infielders in the game the past few years, and he'll be seeking a deal similar to what other infielders who've signed recently have gotten," Bick said.

Both agents acknowledged the cost of signing both players would increase if they went on the open market in November.

Before this season, both Johnson and Bordick were known more for their defense. Johnson is a three-time Gold Glove winner. The Orioles were outraged last year when Bordick didn't win a Gold Glove despite leading American League shortstops with a .989 fielding percentage and 797 total chances.

This year both players have increased their offensive output. Johnson is a career .238 hitter who had never hit more than 19 home runs in a season. This year he's hitting .295 and already has 11 homers. Bordick has never hit more than 13 homers before this season, but he hit his 12th of the campaign Sunday. His .307 batting average is 49 points above his career average.

Boras said he usually doesn't negotiate with teams during the season but "we have let Baltimore know that if there's a short period of time to open and close the door on a deal, we would be open to it."

Boras is one of the more influential agents in the game, but the Orioles have not signed one of his clients since pitcher Kevin Brown left the club after the 1995 season. (Johnson was acquired via trade before last year.) That has led to speculation that clashes between himself and Angelos have gotten in the way of potential business between the two parties.

However, Boras downplayed the rift and said it will not compromise any contract talks.

"I have no issues with Peter Angelos. There are things we don't agree on, but that's the nature of the game," he said.

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