Yankees pursue A-Rod

Posted: Sunday, February 15, 2004

NEW YORK (AP) Alex Rodriguez was just a day or two away from joining the Yankees in a trade that will surely rank as one of the biggest in baseball history.

The American League champions and the Texas Rangers agreed Saturday to the outline of a deal that would send A-Rod to the Bronx for Alfonso Soriano and a player to be named, three high-ranking baseball officials said. Rodriguez, regarded as baseball's top player, would be the first reigning Most Valuable Player to switch teams. The talks began Wednesday night, and the sides moved to the brink of a final agreement Saturday, the officials told The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.

The sides need to finalize the amount of money Texas will pay New York, and complete an agreement with Rodriguez on a restructuring of his contract that was described as modest.

Several of those involved said the trade was likely to be finalized Sunday or Monday. Approval of both the commissioner's office and the players' association is necessary.

As part of the trade, Texas would pay about $67 million of the $179 million in salary that Rodriguez is owed over the final seven years of his contract. That leaves the Yankees to pay an average of approximately $16 million per season.

In addition to the $112 million the Rangers would clear off their books, Texas estimated it would save more than $13 million in interest for salaries that are to be deferred.

''Probably when the whole deal is done, because of the way it's paid out, it could be $125 million,'' one of the officials said.

Rodriguez has a no-trade clause but has said he would be amenable to a deal to the Yankees, all of the officials said. Rodriguez would be moved from shortstop to third base by New York, filling the hole created when Aaron Boone hurt his knee Jan. 16 in a pickup basketball game, an injury that will require surgery. Derek Jeter, the Yankees' captain, would remain at shortstop.

Texas general manager John Hart confirmed negotiations were ongoing, but said it was premature to call it a done deal.

''We're in a very sensitive stage right now,'' he said. ''A deal of this magnitude, with all the moving parts, it takes time.''

Hart, though, is excited about what he called a ''potential win-win-win situation for the Rangers, the Yankees and Alex Rodriguez.'' He emphasized that Texas will benefit from greater financial flexibility, while adding a quality player.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was tightlipped.

''Without going into the specifics, I can acknowledge trade discussions are taking place with the Texas Rangers,'' he said. ''In fairness to all parties involved, I cannot comment further at this time.''

The deal would require approval of the commissioner's office because of the money changing teams, and of the union because the deferred money in Rodriguez's contract would be restructured.

''I can't comment on the situation,'' said Rodriguez's agent, Scott Boras.

The talks were first reported Saturday by The New York Post and Newsday.

Boston, the Yankees' perennial rival, nearly acquired Rodriguez in December, but a proposed deal that would have sent outfielder Manny Ramirez to the Rangers fell through because the players' association blocked Boston's attempt to restructure Rodriguez's record $252 million, 10-year contract. The union said the proposal by the Red Sox would have lowered the deal's value by $30 million to $32 million.

Boston then rejected the union's plan to lower the contract by $12 million to $13 million in exchange for Rodriguez gaining the right to use Boston's logos in merchandise deals.

After the deal collapsed, Hicks said Rodriguez would remain with the Rangers, and the team announced Jan. 25 that it was making the seven-time All-Star its captain.

In addition to the salary owed the 28-year-old Rodriguez, he is due $4 million from his signing bonus and $12 million deferred at 3 percent annual interest from salaries during his first three years with Texas. Of the $67 million or so the Rangers will pay the Yankees, $24 million will go to money the contract called to be deferred in the final seven years.

The deferred money originally was to be paid from 2011-20. Rodriguez agreed to push back the payment schedule by five years and lower the interest rate by what the Rangers believe is a significant amount, one of the officials said. The union was examining the proposed change and didn't consider it to be a great obstacle, one baseball lawyer said.

In addition, the Yankees would like to defer some of the approximately $112 million they will owe Rodriguez.

Soriano, 26, will make $5.4 million this year and has two more years of salary arbitration eligibility remaining. The two-time All-Star can become a free agent after the 2006 season.

New York's payroll currently is at $170.3 million, not including left-hander Gabe White, who remains in arbitration and will earn at least $1,825,000.

A swap of Soriano for Rodriguez would leave the payroll at about $190 million. But the Yankees consider it breaking even because of the money they will receive from Texas, and the amounts they will save by trading Soriano, releasing Drew Henson and reworking the deal of Boone, who might get released.

Rodriguez would join a new-look roster with the Yankees, who have already added Kevin Brown, Javier Vazquez, Gary Sheffield and Kenny Lofton since New York lost Game 6 of the World Series to the Florida Marlins. As part of the massive retooling, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, David Wells and Nick Johnson departed.

Rodriguez, who was born in New York, lives in Florida. He was disappointed when the New York Mets failed to pursue him when he became a free agent after the 2000 season.

He was frustrated following three last-place finishes in Texas, but said in recent weeks he was content to remain with the Rangers.

''I feel like we have a great plan in hand,'' he said Feb. 6. ''I feel very comfortable about where the Texas Rangers are going.''

Rodriguez hit .298 last season with 47 homers, 118 RBIs and 17 stolen bases. Soriano batted .290 with 38 homers, 91 RBIs and 35 steals.

If the deal is made, Enrique Wilson, Miguel Cairo and Erick Almonte would be among the candidates to play second base for the Yankees.

New York opens spring training Tuesday, and Texas starts two days later.

AP Sports Writer Jaime Aron in Dallas contributed to this report.

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