A-Rod talks off, for now: Sox put focus back on Garciaparra
By Jeff Horrigan
Saturday, December 13, 2003
NEW ORLEANS - The Red Sox proposed trade for Alex Rodriguez is off.
At least for now.
Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks confirmed last night that he and Boston counterpart John Henry have decided to shelve talks on a blockbuster deal that would lead to the swap of Manny Ramirez for Rodriguez. The owners agreed to explore other options over the weekend at baseball's annual winter meetings and then speak again early next week if their respective needs aren't filled.
By all indications, the trade has been shelved in order to permit the Sox to make one more stab at signing current shortstop Nomar Garciaparra to a contract extension. Even though Henry and agent Arn Tellem exchanged harsh words during the week, sources said last night the sides had re-opened dialogue and that the Sox had presented or were preparing to make another contract offer that would keep Garciaparra in Boston beyond next year, which is the final year of his current contract.
If the effort fails and the Sox continue to get signals the sides can't reach a middle ground, it appears that Henry and Hicks - who have conducted the trade negotiations themselves - will talk again after the completion of the meetings on Monday. Boston may also attempt to sign free agent shortstop Miguel Tejada [stats, news].
``We're both going to work on other things right now,'' Hicks told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. ``It's off the front burner. I'll say it again, I think Alex will be our shortstop (in 2004).''
The decision reduces the glare of the spotlight focused on the Sox, who were considering trading their two highest-profile position players, while acquiring the 2003 American League Most Valuable Player and his contract, which is the richest in baseball history.
Henry did not respond to a request for comment on the matter, while general manager Theo Epstein would not discuss any prospective deal out of respect for his current players.
``We're going to meet with a lot of teams,'' Epstein said. ``I think it's not the right thing to get into who we met and when.''
The GM acknowledged, however, that he hadn't spoken with Henry, which may have been an indication that all A-Rod action was dead for now.
``I haven't talked to him, (but) I think we e-mailed once,'' Epstein said.
The holding pattern appears to signal that the Sox realize A-Rod, while being the best all-around player in the league, is not worth the $186 million that he is owed over the final seven years of his 10-year, $252 million contract. With Hicks insisting that Henry kick in an estimated $5 million annually over the next five years to be used toward the remaining $99.5 million owed Ramirez, the Sox may have decided it made little sense to essentially pay an average of $30.5 million annually for their shortstop. That figure is exactly what the Milwaukee Brewers plan to use for their entire payroll in 2004.
Even if the Sox were to restore their spring training offer to Garciaparra, which was believed to be $60 million over four years, the two-time batting champion would be playing for less than half of what it would cost to have A-Rod on an annual basis. Boston is believed to have reduced its offer to Garciaparra in October to $48 million due to the changing economic climate in baseball. The reaction they got from Tellem prompted them to begin searching for alternatives, hence the start of the Rodriguez trade talks.
Boston had hoped to have Rodriguez restructure his contract, either by deferring more money or voiding option year(s), but the odds of him doing so (and the union allowing it) are extremely slim.
Sources in the Texas and Boston organizations adamantly denied there was any substance to a rumored three-team trade involving the Philadelphia Phillies [stats, schedule]. That deal, which apparently originated on a Web site run in Philadelphia, supposedly would have seen Garciaparra and Trot Nixon [stats, news] traded to the Phillies for Bobby Abreu and Jimmy Rollins. The Sox then would have traded Rollins and Ramirez to Texas. Everyone involved said the rumor was rubbish.
If contract talks with Garciaparra fall through this weekend, the Sox may elect to refocus on Oakland shortstop Tejada. The 2002 American League MVP, however, is believed to be the focus of Seattle, Baltimore, Anaheim, Detroit and, possibly, Los Angeles and may make up his mind as early as this weekend. Tejada would come even cheaper than Garciaparra, judging by the three-year, $24 million deal reportedly offered by Seattle.