- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 23, 2003

Ivan Rodriguez waited long enough, and eventually he got the money he was looking for in the free agent market.
But not from the Baltimore Orioles.
The 10-time Gold Glove catcher agreed to a one-year, $10million contract with the Florida Marlins yesterday, spurning the Orioles' offer of a multi-year deal for less money.
"I didn't feel comfortable with [the Orioles offer]," Rodriguez said yesterday in a conference call. "The deal was in favor of them. It wasn't fair. So I went with the money for a year and played for the money."
That much is certain. And Rodriguez's decision left the Orioles without a player with middle-of-the-lineup power. Cliff Floyd (Mets) and Hideki Matsui (Yankees) chose to sign with other teams, and Rodriguez represented the last major run-producing bat among free agents. Unless the Orioles can work a trade for a big bat sometime in the next 10 weeks, their major offseason mission will go unfulfilled.
"There is a little bit of disappointment, certainly," executive vice president Jim Beattie said. "We could have gotten it done if we wanted to spend the money. But we didn't think he was worth the money."
The $10 million equals about what Rodriguez made last season with the Texas Rangers, but obviously he anticipated getting more offers for more money than he did. The Orioles were the only team that expressed early interest in Rodriguez. The Marlins jumped in the running late last week and landed the 31-year-old catcher, who has a home in the Miami area.
Rodriguez's contract includes a no-trade clause and an agreement that the Marlins will not offer him salary arbitration after the season.
Though the two sides discussed a one-year contract with a club option for a second year, the Orioles didn't like the idea of obtaining a "hired gun" and wanted to sign Rodriguez to a three-year deal. Their initial offer was believed to be in the $6million to $7million range.
"Actually, [negotiations] went well until it got to the decision," Beattie said. "We tried to work out the differences we had. Then in the end, it came down to economics a little bit. We were getting close, but the dollars he was looking for didn't make much sense."
The Orioles are not done in the free-agent market, however. They were waiting to hear back last night or today from Jose Cruz Jr., the former Toronto outfielder to whom they have made an offer. Cruz would be considered an upgrade in the outfield but is not considered a player who could anchor a lineup.

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