12/17/2003 11:51 PM ET
No blessed union yet on megadeal
Commissioner's Office exploring legal options
Union: restructuring vs. reduction
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
Statement from Lucchino regarding Players Association decision
Statement from Rangers owner Tom Hicks
BOSTON -- The proposed mega-swap of Texas superstar Alex Rodriguez for Boston superstar Manny Ramirez appears to be in serious jeopardy.
The Players Association took an extraordinary step on Wednesday, rejecting a proposal made by the Red Sox to restructure the remaining seven years of Rodriguez's record-shattering contract.
The union's summary dismissal of the tentative agreement reached by the Red Sox and Rodriguez drew a quick response from MLB officials.
The Commissioner's Office itself is combing through the agreement and may offer a legal challenge, according to MLB's leading counsel.
Rodriguez had been at the Players Association in New York the past two days working on a satisfactory restructuring. Red Sox owner John W. Henry and general manager Theo Epstein were also on hand.
"The association had to turn down the renegotiation of Alex's contract that the Red Sox proposed because it was clear it crossed the line separating restructuring from reduction, and by a huge margin," said Gene Orza, associate general counsel for the Players Association, in a statement.
"We did suggest an offer the club could make to Alex that would not do that, but, as was its right, the club chose not to make it. I've known Alex since he came in to the sport, and have admired him, both as a player and person, for just as long. But the principle involved is a transcendent one, affecting all of Alex's fellow players. To his credit, Alex, from the outset, recognized this. The short of it though is that there is no viable contract restructuring for the Players Association to consider at the present time."
The Red Sox were disheartened by the decision.
"Theo Epstein and his staff worked diligently and tirelessly and reached an agreement with Alex Rodriguez," said Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino. "Theo had the full support of John, Tom (Werner), and me along the way. The Red Sox and Rangers had agreed to the players to be involved in this transaction and were working toward an agreement on financial considerations to be included. A lot of time and effort has been invested on all sides to reach this critical point, but the Players Association rejected the agreement Alex took to them and, instead, proposed radical changes."
Commissioner Bud Selig, who enacted a deadline of 5 p.m. Thursday for a satisfactory restructuring of A-Rod's contract, is exploring legal options at his office's disposal.
Rob Manfred, MLB's executive vice president of labor relations, said Selig "currently is considering his legal options in consultation with the two teams."
At an extreme, the Commissioner could approve the restructured contract over the union's objections, consigning the matter to arbitration.
The clock is ticking and it appears that by the close of business Thursday, this much-discussed and unprecedented deal between two $20 million-per year players will either become one of the most talked about blockbuster trades in baseball history, or one of the all-time great near misses.
"The Rangers and the Red Sox have agreed to the players involved in this potential transaction and were working toward agreement on the financial considerations," said Rangers owner Tom Hicks in a statement. "Given the
impending deadline imposed by the Office of the Commissioner, the actions of the Players Association may unfortunately determine this issue."
If the Red Sox can somehow come up with an 11th-hour solution on A-Rod's contract, they would acquire arguably the game's best player.
While the deal seemed to be getting increasingly more inevitable by the day, Wednesday's news seemed to halt the trade's momentum.
"It is a sad day when the Players Association thwarts the will of its members," Lucchino said. "The Players Association asserts that it supports individual negotiations, freedom of choice, and player mobility. However, in this high-profile instance, their action contradicts this and is contrary to the desires of the player. We appreciate the flexibility and determination Alex and Cynthia Rodriguez have shown in their effort to move to Boston and the Red Sox."
It is a deal both teams appear eager to make.
"We have finished last four years in a row," Hicks said Tuesday. "All our fans want to do is win and all we want to do is win. We have a great nucleus of young players and the only reason we are considering this is that it puts us in a in a position to win faster. If Alex stays, we will still be on a path to winning, but we will not have the ability to address our needs as fast."
If the Red Sox can overcome this latest hurdle and make the deal a reality, they would then be in position to possibly pull a quick trigger on a trade that would send star shortstop Nomar Garciaparra out of Boston, where he has spent the first seven years of his career.
The Dodgers are the team reportedly most interested in Garciaparra, who has Southern California roots. But it has also been speculated that the Sox would send Garciaparra to the White Sox for slugger Magglio Ordonez, who could fill Ramirez's spot in the outfield and the cleanup hole in the batting order.
If that deal occurred, the White Sox would then either keep Garciaparra or possibly send him to the Dodgers.
Ordonez -- one of the league's most underrated run producers -- would seemingly be a better match for the Red Sox than anyone the Dodgers are willing to send.
But everything is on hold now.
"This afternoon's news of the Major League Players Association rejecting Boston's agreement with Alex is an unfortunate matter between Alex and the Players Association," said Hicks. "Throughout all of these negotiations,
we have always said the Rangers would be thrilled to have Alex back as our shortstop and team leader. We have also made it clear any trade involving him would have to make our team better, faster."
If the Red Sox can't land A-Rod, they still have full confidence in the team they have assembled. Already this winter, the Sox have landed star right-hander Curt Schilling and All-Star closer Keith Foulke.
"We're in a nice position now," Epstein said upon Monday's conclusion of the Winter Meetings. "We have a really strong club as is if we just fill in, to complement what we have. And I think there's a chance to get even better if some things break our way. But we're in a good position."
If the A-Rod trade does not occur, the Sox are likely to intensify contract talks with Garciaparra, who is entering the final season of his seven-year pact.
"It has already been a fruitful off-season for the Red Sox, and we will continue to pursue all available avenues in our ongoing quest to improve our team as we look forward to 2004 and beyond," said Lucchino.
Ian Browne is a
reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of
Major League Baseball or its clubs.