Orioles and Tejada together again, for $6 million
BALTIMORE – Six years after signing Miguel Tejada to a top-dollar contract, the Baltimore Orioles welcomed back the 2002 AL MVP at a bargain price.
Tejada received a $6 million, one-year contract Tuesday after passing a physical. He was introduced in a news conference at the B&O Warehouse behind the baseball diamond at Camden Yards – the same building that was filled with hope in December 2003 when Tejada signed a six-year, $72 million contract.
The Orioles have endured 12 straight losing seasons, including four with Tejada from 2004-07. The 35-year-old expects that streak to end in 2010.
“I’m going to put a lot of pressure on myself because this is a second chance for me to be a winner,” Tejada said. “The last time I cannot be a winner, but I think this time is the time. I came back here for a reason.”
Tejada played shortstop with Baltimore before being traded in December 2007 to the Houston Astros for five players, a key deal in the Orioles’ effort to rebuild with youth.
Now, Tejada will be asked to provide leadership at a new position: third base.
“I thought it was our job in the front office to surround our young core players with as many quality major league players as we could find, guys that were not only good players on the field but could demonstrate with their performance and their approach what it takes to win,” president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said.
Tejada is the latest addition by MacPhail during an offseason in which he has secured veterans Kevin Millwood, Garrett Atkins and Michael Gonzalez.
Tejada can earn an additional $100,000 for reaching 630 plate appearances. If he is traded the Orioles must pay him $150,000.
Back when he was with the Orioles, Tejada was hesitant to move from shortstop to third base. Now he’s willing to give it a try, because Baltimore already has Cesar Izturis at shortstop and has a hole at the hot corner.
“I know it’s not going to be an easy thing to do, but I’ll have a lot of time to work with the coaches,” Tejada said.
MacPhail said he never expected a player of Tejada’s talent to be available as a free agent this late in the offseason, and noted that negotiations last week were stalled because the infielder spent several days helping victims of the earthquake in Haiti.
“The reason I went there is I have a lot of friends in Haiti,” Tejada said. “The way I can support them is go up there and try to see what I can do to help them out. What happened in Haiti can happen to anybody; that’s why we have to really appreciate what we’ve got.”
The Orioles were delighted to land Tejada, who made the NL All-Star team during each of his two seasons in Houston and last year hit .313 with 14 home runs and 86 RBIs in 158 games. He became a free agent after the Astros declined to offer him arbitration.
And now he’s back in Baltimore under vastly different circumstances than in his initial arrival, when he was asked to carry the team on his shoulders into the playoffs. This time, Tejada is merely a veteran presence on a team with a budding pitching staff and a lineup that includes under-30 stars Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Matt Wieters and Nolan Reimold.
“It’s totally different,” Tejada said. “You can see all the young pitchers we didn’t have when I came here the first time. I think that’s why, like the last time, it’s not about me. It’s about everybody. Now they have pitching, outfielders and young talent. They don’t have to do too much to have a winner here.”
The first time he arrived in Baltimore, Tejada didn’t show up with unwanted baggage.
Last March, he was sentenced to one year of probation for misleading Congress. Tejada admitted he withheld information about an ex-teammate’s use of performance-enhancing drugs when questioned in 2005 by congressional investigators.
Tejada acknowledged he bought human growth hormone while playing for Oakland, but said he threw the drugs away without using them. Prosecutors said during his February plea hearing they had no evidence to contradict that.
MacPhail considered the past to be irrelevant.
“He went through the process, a large measure of scrutiny, and I think he handled himself well and satisfied the people that needed to be satisfied,” MacPhail said. “We’ve moved on from there. I was confident that had been put behind us.”
Tejada never did put Baltimore behind him, though. Even after being traded, he kept his home in the city.
“I told my agent, ‘Don’t ever sell my place because you never know,”‘ Tejada said with a broad grin.