Payton inks two-year deal with O's
Veteran outfielder hit .296 last season as member of A's
BALTIMORE -- Jay Payton's mother won't have to stay up as late trying to see his games on television anymore.
The 34-year-old outfielder hails from Raleigh, N.C, and he said his mother, Beth, often stayed up to 1:30 or 2 a.m. trying to watch his games with Oakland since he was traded to the A's midway through the 2005 season. But Payton signing a two-year deal with the Orioles on Monday will make it easier for his mom and family to watch him on television and see him in person.
Payton's family couldn't see him as much because Oakland is so far away from North Carolina. That's one reason he wanted to get closer to home this offseason and why the Orioles were very high on his list. According to the Associated Press and Baltimore Sun, Payton will get $9.5 million over the two years.
"I'm an East Coast guy," Payton said. "I was hoping they'd have a need here ... and my family had a lot to do with it."
Payton also had some contact with various Orioles. He knew Kevin Millar, Ramon Hernandez, Melvin Mora and even Jim Duquette, the team's vice president of baseball operations.
"There's a lot of familiarity here," Payton said.
Payton also said he's not really worried about where the Orioles put him in the lineup. Simply put, he'll bat wherever manager Sam Perlozzo tells him.
"I don't expect to start 162 games," Payton said. "I'll hit anywhere, one through nine, wherever they put me. I know my role."
Duquette said Payton is a line-drive hitter who could fare even better in the hitter-friendly Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
"His playoff experience will be a welcome addition in the clubhouse," Duquette said. "He's an RBI guy."
Payton led Oakland with a .296 average as the A's won the American League West Division in 2006. He finished with 10 homers and 59 RBIs in 142 games while batting .296 against both left- and right-handed pitching.
Payton also has played for the Mets, Rockies, Padres and Red Sox before going to the A's at the 2005 All-Star break in a deal for reliever Chad Bradford, another Orioles free-agent signee this offseason.
The Orioles liked Payton for several reasons, the most important of which were his versatility and his ability to hit against both lefties and righties.
"Jay fits our need for a right-handed-hitting outfielder," said Mike Flanagan, Orioles executive vice president for baseball operations. "He likely will see time at each outfield spot for us as well."
In 2006, Payton showed that versatility in a big way. He made 136 starts in the outfield, with 51 games in left field, 44 in center and 41 in right. That ability to jump around to different positions made him interesting to the Orioles.
He is the only outfielder in the Major Leagues since 1957, when these records starting being kept, to start at least 40 games in each of the three outfield positions in one season.
Duquette said despite the team's several moves this winter, the club still is looking for more. The Orioles have talked with agents for Aubrey Huff and Shannon Stewart, and Duquette said this move will make the Orioles take one player off their 40-man roster.
"There's a lot of areas we've improved," Duquette said. "We still have a lot of work to do."
But Payton clearly was happy after the signing. His family should feel good also.
Jeff Seidel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.