O's Payton, Millar file for free agency
Outfielder aims to start; first baseman had 20 homers in 2008
BALTIMORE -- Two Orioles filed for free agency on Thursday, taking advantage of the earliest possible moment to join the open market. Veterans Jay Payton and Kevin Millar both signaled their intentions to test their value around the league, and the Orioles will make a decision in the coming weeks or months as to whether they bid to retain their services.
Millar, the team's starting first baseman for the last three seasons, stands a far greater chance of returning than Payton. Still, the 36-year-old Millar is braced for a long winter of waiting to see which teams will have an interest in signing him. Millar batted .234 last season, the lowest average of his career, but contributed 20 home runs and 72 RBIs in the heart of the order.
The right-handed hitter, who won a World Series championship with the Red Sox in 2004, knows that the Orioles may pursue a big-ticket item on the market to replace him at first base. And even if they don't, he knows that the presence of designated hitter Aubrey Huff -- who plays both first and third base -- may push him out of a starting job in Baltimore.
Millar, who kept a season-long running diary for MLB.com this season, addressed those possibilities earlier this month.
"I've made it known that I'd like to come back here," he said. "I've made it known that I enjoy bringing energy to this clubhouse and I've enjoyed the three years that I've played here. It's been phenomenal. Hopefully, they know who I am, but I'm angry at myself and I'm almost embarrassed at the way I finished. I did not swing the bat well the last six weeks, and the reality is that you've got to hit in this league. I scuffled my butt off, but they know I fight tooth and nail every day.
"I know it's Andy MacPhail's job to go out and test the market, but if things work out I'd love to be the first baseman here. I have a lot of work to do this offseason to prove something and to personally swing the bat the way I'm capable of."
Payton, who served as Baltimore's fourth outfielder last season, is believed to be in search of a starting job. The fleet-footed left fielder was one of the team's best conditioned players even at 36 years old. Payton, who hit .241 with a .297 on-base percentage for the Orioles last season, might be willing to accept a reserve role on a team closer to contention.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.