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Lopez agrees to three-year deal

BALTIMORE -- Javy Lopez agreed to a $22.5 million,
three-year deal with Baltimore on Monday, giving the Orioles a big
hitter and another addition to their rebuilding program.

The deal for the All-Star catcher is contingent on the free
agent passing a team physical Tuesday.

ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney reports Lopez has a $5 million incentive package worked into the contract. Part of the package includes a weight-management clause worked that will kick in if Lopez stays between 210 and 213 pounds during the season. The package also includes incentives tied the number of at-bats Lopez reaches next season.

"Javy was the targeted guy that we were looking at in the
process and he's thrilled to be aboard," Orioles vice president
Mike Flanagan said.

Lopez, 33, hit .328 last season for the Atlanta Braves, with 43
homers and 109 RBI, both career highs. It was his best year since
1998, when he hit .284 with 34 homers and 106 RBI.

But the cost-cutting Braves decided not to re-sign him and
didn't offer salary arbitration Dec. 7, meaning he couldn't re-sign
with them until May 1.

Baltimore already has added shortstop Miguel Tejada. The 2002 AL
Most Valuable Player agreed a week ago to a $72 million, six-year
contract.

"Javy brings to the table for us substantial postseason
experience ... we feel that we've added an MVP-caliber player in
Miguel Tejada and one of the upper-echelon players in Javy Lopez,"
Flanagan said.

Team officials have also been speaking with the agent of
outfielder Vladimir Guerrero. Flanagan said those talks will
continue through the holidays.

"He still is an important piece we want to consider," Flanagan
said.

Before reaching the deal with Lopez, there had also been
negotiations with prominent free agent catcher Ivan Rodriguez.

"Javy was the targeted guy for some time," Flanagan said.

Flanagan said Lopez is a "veteran presence" who "played a big
part in creating and maintaining Atlanta's winning environment over
the last decade."

Baltimore has finished fourth in the AL East for six consecutive
seasons behind the New York Yankees, Boston and Toronto.

Lopez gets a $1.5 million signing bonus, $5.5 million in 2004,
$7 million in 2005 and $8.5 million in 2006. He can earn an
additional $350,000 per year in performance bonuses: $100,000 each
for 450 and 500 plate appearances, and $150,000 for 550 plate
appearances.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.