Agreement with free agent imminent?

Updated: January 8, 2004, 4:38 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

The Baltimore Orioles believe they are on the verge of getting free-agent outfielder Vladimir Guerrero to agree to a multiyear contract, according to a published report.

Orioles sources told The Baltimore Sun that the team has made marked progress in negotiations with Guerrero, perhaps the best available free agent this offseason. In fact, an unnamed, high-ranking Orioles official told The Sun that "I think we're in the driver's seat."

Vladimir Guerrero
Guerrero

Guerrero, a 27-year-old right fielder, was expected to make a final decision within 48 hours, sources told the New York Daily News on Wednesday night.

Baltimore also is close to an agreement to re-sign first basman Rafael Palmeiro, The Sun reported. Palmeiro hit 214 home runs between 1994 and 1998. The 39-year-old free agent, who has 528 career homers, played the last five seasons for the Texas Rangers.

"You can pretty much bet that deal's going to be made," the high-ranking Orioles official told The Sun.

The Orioles initially offered Guerrero a five-year, $65 million contract, which he reportedly countered with a seven-year, $105 million request. According to The Sun's sources, Guerrero's camp may be softening its demand.

The best offer Guerrero has received came from his former team, the Expos -- $75 million for five years. Guerrero rejected it, and Montreal declined to offer him arbitration.

ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney reported earlier this week that the New York Mets are seriously considering making Guerrero an offer. Three major league sources told Olney that if the Mets do make an offer it would be for far less than the Orioles'.

The Mets believe the lure of playing in New York -- and staying in the National League -- would appeal to Guerrero, but they reportedly are not willing to move beyond a three-year offer after getting burned by the Mo Vaughn trade before the 2002 season. Both the Orioles and Mets also have concerns about Guerrero's back problems.

Guerrero missed close to two months last season because of a herniated disk but was terrific after returning, finishing the season with a .330 average, 25 home runs and 79 RBI for the Expos.

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