02/17/09 1:29 PM EST
Roberts, O's working toward extension
Second baseman, club hoping for contract resolution by Thursday
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
Andy MacPhail, Baltimore's president of baseball operations, said Tuesday that the two sides are moving closer to an agreement but stopped short of saying that he considered anything imminent.
"We're still talking," he said. "I think both sides are making progress and closing the gap."
Roberts, who is entering the final season of a contract signed before the 2007 season, is believed to be seeking a four-year pact from the Orioles. Baltimore has reportedly countered with a three-year deal with an option for a fourth season, and MacPhail acknowledged that both sides would like to have something done before the season starts.
"I wouldn't say it's urgency," he said. "I'd say it's a preference for both sides."
Roberts, a two-time All-Star, is the second-longest serving player on Baltimore's roster. The 31-year-old has been with the Orioles since 2001 and has been a starter since the '03 season. Roberts has batted .285 or better in each of the past four years and has been in the league's top 10 in stolen bases in each of the past six seasons.
Some reports have speculated that Roberts and the Orioles are being held up by free agent Orlando Hudson's contract negotiations, but one industry source said that the latter player has injury concerns that make him a completely separate case. Hudson, unlike Roberts, has won multiple Gold Gloves during his career.
Baltimore manager Dave Trembley has said multiple times that he doesn't think Roberts will be distracted by the contract talks, and he was asked Tuesday if he'd be more comfortable with the deal completed. Trembley said he'd prefer to keep that between the player and executive, artfully dodging the issue.
"I stay away from that because I feel that's none of my business," he said, "I'm very supportive of the players, but I also understand that process is something that exists between Andy MacPhail and Brian Roberts or whoever is representing him. It's like I've said: I'm just looking forward to penciling him in every day to bat leadoff and play second base for us."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.