- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 25, 2003

For the second time this week, the Baltimore Orioles had a free agent walk away from their contract offer.
The club broke off negotiations with outfielder Jose Cruz Jr. yesterday when it became clear the Orioles' one-year proposal, worth about $2million, would not satisfy Cruz. He was seeking around $3million for a one-year deal after he made $3.95million last season, when he hit .245 with 18 home runs and 70 RBI in 124 games.
"We improved our offer from our original one to try to get it done," Orioles executive vice president Jim Beattie said. "We said, 'We're not going any higher,' and left it at that."
After pursuing catcher Ivan Rodriguez for several weeks, Baltimore had offers out to him and Cruz on Tuesday night. On Wednesday, Rodriguez announced he had agreed to a one-year contract with the Florida Marlins after refusing the Orioles' three-year, incentive-laced proposal. Cruz likewise will sign elsewhere after Baltimore cut off talks, concerned that the Cruz camp may be using the Orioles' offer to drive up offers from other clubs.
Still, this development means the Orioles have not made an addition to the middle of their lineup, a priority for the last eight weeks. With Cruz out of the picture, the stock of free agent, run-producing talent is minimal, meaning the club must try to put together a trade to bolster the lineup. The Orioles ranked next-to-last in the American League in runs scored in 2002.
"We're saving money to use it to be flexible in spring training," Beattie said. "We feel there are a lot of players that need to be moved. … A lot of clubs need to move salary still, and we need to be ready to take advantage of whatever opportunities present themselves and stay flexible with payroll."

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