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O's, Mora agree to a 3-year deal

All-Star Melvin Mora agreed to a $10.5-million, three-year contract with the Orioles on Wednesday, avoiding salary arbitration.

Mora enjoyed his finest season in the majors in 2003 despite seeing limited time in the second half because of injuries. He hit .317 with 15 homers and 48 RBIs in 96 games and was the team's only representative in the All-Star Game.

Mora played a variety of positions in 2003, including shortstop, second base and the outfield. But he is projected as the starting third baseman in 2004, replacing departed free agent Tony Batista.

Mora received a $1-million signing bonus. He will earn $2-million in 2004, $3.5-million in 2005 and $4-million in 2006. The contract also includes up to $350,000 in available performance bonuses each season.

"It's great because I don't have to worry about arbitration, and it's more great that I'll be able to stay here in Baltimore with my family," Mora said.

CUBS: Wrigley Field is closer to landmark status after a Chicago City Council committee unanimously approved a plan that would declare the ballpark a landmark but still allow some changes. The stadium opened in April 1914.

The Committee on Historical Landmarks and Preservation recommended Tuesday that the council approve the ordinance, but with provisions that would allow the Cubs to build about 200 new box seats and make other possible alterations.

The council is expected to take up the issue on Feb. 11.

D'BACKS: Wally Backman was hired to manage the team's Class A affiliate.

MARLINS: Left-hander Darren Oliver agreed to terms on a one-year contract pending a physical.

His contract will pay him less than $1-million. He's expected to get the final spot in Florida's rotation until right-hander A.J. Burnett completes his rehabilitation from elbow surgery.

METS: Todd Zeile finalized his $1-million, one-year contract.

TIGERS: The Associated Press reported catcher Ivan Rodriguez was close to agreeing to a $40-million, four-year contract.

In other news, third baseman Dean Palmer announced his retirement. He has been plagued by neck and shoulder injuries.

YANKEES: Infielder Tyler Houston and outfielder Darren Bragg have agreed to minor-league contracts. Also, Oscar Acosta, a former Cubs pitching coach, will be the new manager of the Gulf Coast League team.