- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 19, 2002

The Baltimore Orioles' quest to land a needed big bat in the middle of their lineup met a stumbling block last night, as club officials and the representative for Ivan Rodriguez broke off contract talks. Both sides remained significantly distant from one another while discussing salary and weren't budging much.

"The gist of our conversation was that we're quite a ways apart," Orioles executive vice president Jim Beattie said. "Certainly from their side, there's not a need for an adjustment. I'd say it's dead in the water."

One of the factors most influencing Beattie and the Orioles' offer is his preference to have flexibility with the team's payroll. Bigger contracts one like Rodriguez is seeking, in the vicinity of $10 million per season can weigh heavily on a team's payroll.

"If a team wants to sign [Rodriguez] for 10 million and he takes it, fine," Beattie said. "We only value players a certain way. I don't want to have a contract out there that, six months from now, is tough to move. I'm trying to do something with as much flexibility as we can. I'm not interested in setting any new standards [for salaries]."

Beattie said he doesn't expect talks to continue with Rodriguez's agent, Jeff Moorad, in the next few days. Moorad will continue to test interest from around the league in his client, but few teams have jumped at the chance to negotiate with the 10-time All Star and Gold Glove catcher.

The Cubs, who are managed by another Moorad client, Dusty Baker, had shown preliminary interest during the Winter Meetings but have pulled back in recent days. They too have expressed reluctance as to whether they could meet the salary demands for Rodriguez, who made about $10 million with the Texas Rangers last season.

In regards to Japanese outfielder Hideki Matsui, the Orioles spoke with his agent, Arn Tellem, multiple times yesterday. Tellem and Matsui were scheduled to participate in a conference call yesterday afternoon with the slugger's representatives in Japan. Beattie expected to hear back from Tellem either last night or today.

The Yankees are the front-runners in the Matsui sweepstakes, and are reportedly prepared to offer him a three-year contract worth between $18 million and $24 million. Beattie said he wouldn't divulge the proposal the Orioles sent to Tellem Tuesday night, but he added, "I know that [Matsui] didn't dismiss our offer."

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