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Orioles, Loewen Strike Deadline Deal
By Will Kimmey
As his agent and the Orioles negotiated right up until Monday's midnight deadline on the East Coast, Adam Loewen passed the time at home in Surrey, British Columbia, playing a Tiger Woods golf video game with a friend.
His hands soaked with a nervous sweat, Loewen said he could barely hold his controller. He was able to grab the phone when agent Michael Moye called about 9 p.m. Pacific, confirming a deal with Baltimore.
"My mind was going 100 miles a minute," Loewen said. "There were times when I thought it wasn't getting done, and times I thought it was getting done. There was information that caused me to think it wasn't and information to make me think it was."
Moye said negotiations heated up in the 24 hours before the deadline for Loewen to sign or go back into this year's draft. The Orioles offered a major league contract in the final hour, which was the key to finally signing the 6-foot-6 lefthander they selected fourth overall out of high school last year.
"That made me think they knew I was going to get (to the majors) and that they really wanted me by taking an aggressive step at me," Loewen said.
Sources told Baseball America that Loewen, 19, received a total package of $4.02 million, the figure he sought last summer. Loewen will receive a $3.2 million signing bonus spread over four years and at least $820,000 in salary over five years. Orioles vice president of baseball operations Mike Flanagan said those figures were "in the right ballpark."
The Orioles were offering around $2.5 million last year when negotiations broke down. Loewen headed to Chipola (Fla.) Junior College so he would still have an opportunity to sign with the Orioles or go right back into the draft if he didn't sign.
"We threw all of last year's numbers out," Flanagan said. "He was a year older and had been through a year of junior college baseball against better competition. It was a different situation."
Loewen signed just before the closed period began today. At this point, teams may no longer sign eligible players from last year's draft. The only exceptions are players who are still involved in junior college or college playoffs. Players who have not signed by now go back into the draft pool.
Loewen went 6-1, 2.47 at Chipola this year, adding a slider to a repertoire that already included a 90-94 mph fastball with late life, a 12-to-6 power curveball and average changeup. He was an almost sure top five pick had he gone back into the draft. If they had not signed him, the Orioles would have received a supplemental first-round pick, No. 37 overall, as compensation. They're much happier to have Loewen.
"We're feeling awfully good about it," Flanagan said. "There was a lot of hard work that went into it from the scouts to the front office . . . Talent is talent, and we thought Adam was a talent."
Loewen will fly to Baltimore on Friday to take a physical. From there, he will head to extended spring training in Sarasota, Fla., and begin his professional career with short-season Aberdeen, which opens June 17 against Brooklyn. Flanagan said the team was still evaluating Loewen and it wasn't out of the question for him to begin at low Class A Delmarva.
"I'm really excited," Loewen said. "I've been waiting a long time for this to happen. It finally got done and now I can go out and play baseball."
Beginning Friday, the Orioles' front office spent much of Memorial Day weekend working on a deal, and Loewen said he hoped he would be able to reach one rather than go back into the draft. He didn't want to revisit the pressure and uncertainty of the draft and signing process for a second time. He said baseball's attempt to rein in bonuses had an effect on his signing.
"It actually played a major role," he said. "I was hesitant to go back into the draft. With the uncertainty, it's a mixed bag. The high-profile teams like the New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves can pay the extra money, but some other teams probably wouldn't.
"What it came down to was I want to play as soon as possible."
Loewen also acknowledged the role played by Flanagan and Jim Beattie, who took over the general manager duties from Syd Thrift in December.
"It's quite different," Loewen said. "Last year I didn't really know who the GM was. They came to most of my games and were nice people and tried to make the situation more comfortable."
"Jim and Mike were just outstanding," scouting director Tony DeMacio told The (Baltimore) Sun. "They just did a tremendous job in this process."
By signing a major league contract, Loewen is immediately added to the Orioles 40-man roster. He will have to make the Orioles' 25-man roster by Opening Day 2007, or be exposed to waivers if he is sent down.
"We felt there are very few cases for this, but Adam is one of them," Flanagan said.
"I can see myself there in three years," Loewen said. "It will depend on how I do in the minor leagues, but that was what I liked the most (about the deal). I'm not afraid of anything . . . I don't think I won't be ready."The beginning of the closed period meant several other significant draft-and-follow prospects were in the news as well:
Josh Boyd contributed to this story.