For B.J. Surhoff, his next move comes down to two C’s playing close to home or with a contender.
Those are the choices with which the free agent outfielder is presented. He has offers from the Baltimore Orioles and New York Mets on the table, and could decide as early as today which one he will accept.
The Orioles, who worked out Surhoff multiple times last week and have made a minor league offer with an invitation to spring training, are hoping he returns to Baltimore, where he played from 1996 to 2000. Surhoff and his family kept their home in the Baltimore area while he played in Atlanta and his autistic son received treatment at Johns Hopkins. He was a fan favorite and has said how much he enjoyed his time in Baltimore.
The Mets, however, present an opportunity for Surhoff to join a team that figures to make a run at the National League East title after stumbling last season. Surhoff has never reached a World Series in his 16-year career with Milwaukee, Baltimore and Atlanta. At 38 and coming off major knee surgery to repair a torn ACL suffered early last season, he is running out of chances.
“He wants the best opportunity to play,” Surhoff’s agent, Gregg Clifton, said yesterday. “He has a lot of baseball left in him. But he has time it’s not like camp starts this week.”
Surhoff is weighing other factors in his decision. If the Orioles fall out of contention by the trading deadline, they could deal Surhoff to a non-East Coast team and away from his family. Assuming he would be a reserve outfielder or a platoon player with either club, he likely would have more opportunities to play in the National League because of pinch hitting and double switches.
The American League offers the designated hitter, but unless the Orioles move one or more of their existing outfielders, they would have at least four players Jay Gibbons, Marty Cordova, Chris Richard and Melvin Mora battling Surhoff for playing time.
The Mets already have Cliff Floyd to play left field and Jeromy Burnitz in right. Roger Cedeno, Timo Perez and Tsuyoshi Shinjo are competing for time in center. Surhoff also considered signing with the Mets when he was a free agent after the 1998 season.
The Orioles would like to get word from Surhoff one way or the other before pitchers and catchers report for spring training next week.
“Time is getting short,” Orioles executive vice president Jim Beattie said Monday. “We’d like to get it done.”