Millar re-signs with O's for one year
First baseman inks contract worth a reported $2.75 million
BALTIMORE -- As recently as a few days ago, Kevin Millar jumped the gun by announcing he had signed a contract before he had even seen one. Now, the first baseman's statement is completely correct. Millar inked a one-year deal worth a reported $2.75 million to stay with Baltimore on Saturday, two days before the start of the Winter Meetings.
Part of the contract included a team option for the 2008 season, which will vest if Millar makes a certain amount of plate appearances. The gregarious veteran posted the second-highest on-base percentage (.374) of any Baltimore regular last season, and he'll likely split time between first base and designated hitter again next year.
Millar's completed pact is one of two the Orioles hope to announce in the next few days. Catcher Paul Bako has agreed to terms on a one-year deal worth $900,000, but he has to take a physical before it becomes official. Millar didn't have to take an exam, but he did have to get the contract and sign it before the team could announce it.
Earlier in the week, Baltimore executive Jim Duquette mused at Millar's comments, which ran in the Baltimore Sun.
"He went and announced his deal in typical Millar fashion," said Duquette, the team's vice president of baseball operations. "It's one of those things where we don't have a signed letter of agreement yet. Until we have that, we don't have anything official to announce."
That changed Saturday night, when Millar's signature finally reached the Baltimore offices. The right-handed hitter has had the Orioles on his mind all offseason, and he's been making recruiting calls on the team's behalf. Now that he's signed, the last true remaining vacancy is left field, where Jeff Conine and Brandon Fahey split time last year.
The Orioles had hoped to make a big splash in the outfield by signing either Carlos Lee or Alfonso Soriano, the two prize jewels of this winter's free-agent class. Lee signed with Houston, though, and Soriano inked a huge-dollar pact with the Chicago Cubs. Now, the O's will likely look to the trade front to find a power-hitting outfielder.
Virtually all of Baltimore's outfielders were left-handed hitters last season. Conine was the lone exception, and he was traded shortly before the deadline. The Orioles would like to get a right-handed hitter to balance out the lineup, but they're willing to trade or sign a left-handed bat if it represents a clear upgrade.
The Orioles have already had a decisive offseason, moving quickly to sign four free-agent relievers. Southpaw Jamie Walker and right-handers Scott Williamson, Chad Bradford and Danys Baez have all been signed to shore up the team's weakest area. Baltimore spent more than $40 million in that effort and aren't done shopping yet.
Millar's return represents a modest expenditure at a position that usually costs a lot of money. He was productive down the stretch last season -- batting .248 with six home runs before the All-Star break and .299 with nine homers after it -- and has been lauded as being a good clubhouse influence in Baltimore's youth-laden clubhouse.
"He brings -- just like a couple other guys we brought on board -- a winning type of mentality," Duquette said. "He came over here, and with his personality the way it is, he was trying to bring the team together. It was a difficult process for a lot of those guys in the first few months.
"But in the last two months of the season, I think we saw a significant turn in the clubhouse, just in the way the players started feeling about the direction of the team. I think he played a big part in turning that around."
The Orioles also announced two other roster moves. Brian Finch and Cory Morris were outrighted to Triple-A. Both pitchers were on the 40-man roster last year, and Morris spent three days with the parent club without pitching.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.