Roberts, O's complete four-year deal
Second baseman's contract extension runs through 2013 season
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- First, there was the dress rehearsal. And then there was the performance.
Brian Roberts met the media on Friday in a full-fledged news conference to announce his four-year contract extension, a group interview that eerily reproduced a conversation from the previous day. Roberts held forth about the potential deal on Thursday, and he reiterated several of his views on Friday in front of cameras and klieg lights.
"A lot of people have asked me [about] looming free agency -- the lure and opportunity to go out and look at every team in Major League Baseball and see where you want to play -- [but] this was the only place I wanted to be for the rest of my career," said Roberts, who has played his entire career with the Orioles. "My family has taught me -- my parents, my dad, certainly -- the value of loyalty. The Orioles have shown that to me, and I wanted to show it back. We're certainly glad we could come to an agreement that hopefully works out great for both sides."
Roberts, a target of incessant trade rumors during the past two offseasons, signed a four-year extension worth $40 million that includes at least a partial no-trade clause. The two-time All-Star will also attain 10-and-5 status -- 10 years in the league and five with one team -- midway through the deal, which will allow him to veto any trade that includes his name.
The switch-hitter said that it was important for him to play his entire career with one team, and he expressed hope that he would be able to retire as an Oriole. Roberts invoked the name of franchise icon Cal Ripken Jr. at one point during Friday's news conference, and he said he'd rather stay where he was than wait for a chance at the open market.
"I don't think any of us can predict next October, November or December," Roberts said. "I was fairly confident in my abilities to go out there and play and give myself the opportunity. For me, I wanted to be here. This is what I wanted to do, but I wanted to do it in terms that worked for both sides. I think that's important. My goal, all along, was to play with one team my entire career. I just think that's something that doesn't get to happen very often."
Andy MacPhail, Baltimore's president of baseball operations, said that the negotiations began early in the winter, but they really heated up once Spring Training began. MacPhail also said that Roberts came down in price enough for the Orioles to grant him an extra year, thus coming to terms that both sides found agreeable.
"I think what happened is, within probably the last week or 10 days, each side made a meaningful move to the other," MacPhail said. "Obviously, on the club standpoint, it was committing to the fourth year. Commensurate with that, Brian made a step toward us in terms of what we thought was appropriate to make sure we put as many good players around him over the time that he's with us going forward. Once that happened, things moved pretty quickly."
Roberts, for his part, said that he was "fairly confident" all along that the deal would get done. And he said that some other moves by the team -- chief among them a six-year contract extension for right fielder Nick Markakis and trades for Felix Pie and Rich Hill from Chicago -- made him more certain that he wanted to stay.
|"My family has taught me -- my parents, my dad, certainly -- the value of loyalty. The Orioles have shown that to me, and I wanted to show it back. We're certainly glad we could come to an agreement that hopefully works out great for both sides."|
|-- Brian Roberts|
"I knew it wasn't going to be overnight," Roberts said. "There are so many things that go into the process. Obviously, there's the free-agent market and allowing that to develop on the club side and on our side as well. And then with all the moves they also had to make just to try to improve the overall organization and our team for the next year, I was not necessarily the first person on the agenda, because I was already here for ."
Away from the field, Roberts' merits are inarguable, an opinion held by both sides from the beginning. The second baseman is well-documented as a tireless worker in the community, a fund-raiser for local hospitals and an enthusiastic advocate of children with illnesses that sap the strength of people well beyond their years.
Both MacPhail and Roberts noted that aspect of his personality and said that it wouldn't change after the contract. In fact, MacPhail even said that Roberts is the prototype for what he wants his players to be away from the field. That's why, he said, the Orioles never came as close to trading Roberts, as media reports might suggest.
"When I first stood before you guys in June of 2007, I said I wanted the organization to develop character," MacPhail said. "When teams came in, they'd know they were going to get a full effort from the opponent. No matter how good we might be, we were going to lay it all out there, blue collar, be as aggressive as we can be and try to play the game the right way. ... Brian is the type of player we're trying to have more of in this franchise. When you give up somebody like that, you better be sure you're comfortable with what's coming back. I never got 80 percent of the way there."
And Roberts, who already stands in the top 10 in franchise history in hits (1,095), extra-base hits (355), runs (619), doubles (262) and stolen bases (226), never got all the way to wanting out of town. The lure of free agency just a year away was powerful enough, but so was his desire to return to the only team he's known.
"That's the one thing in professional sports -- free agency -- that most people would want an opportunity at," said Roberts. "On the other hand, there's a lot of guys who would love to be in my situation where they've never had to worry about going out on that open market, the security and being able to spend that entire time in one place. Essentially, after 2004, I've known where I was going to be every year. That's a great comfort, and it just allows you to go out and do your job to your highest capabilities, because you don't have all that extra stuff going on in your mind."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.