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Thursday, December 18, 2003
Updated: December 19, 6:08 PM ET
Money issue not settled by deadline

ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- Baseball commissioner Bud Selig ended talks between Alex Rodriguez and Boston to restructure the remaining $179 million on the shortstop's contract, dealing a severe setback to the proposed trade between the Red Sox and Texas.

The sides were trying to rework Rodriguez's deal Thursday afternoon in a manner acceptable to the Red Sox and the Players Association when Selig stopped talks about 20 minutes after the 5 p.m. ET deadline he had imposed.

Why The Deal Wasn't Kosher
Alex Rodriguez
Rodriguez
If Alex Rodriguez doesn't mind taking a pay cut to play for a contender, why would the baseball players' union?

The answer is in the major league collective bargaining agreement, which has rules to protect players making considerably less than $25 million a year who might be pressured to sacrifice their rights to save their jobs.

A-Rod's deal hinged upon an agreement in which he would renegotiate his $252 million, 10-year contract. Rodriguez offered to cut $12 million in exchange for increased marketing and logo use rights. In all, the AL MVP agreed to a cut that would cost him $28 to $30 million.

But the players association rejected these proposed changes.

In the NFL, where most contracts aren't guaranteed, teams frequently cut players -- or threaten to -- if they don't renegotiate their deals. But baseball's labor agreement says that players can only renegotiate deals to add benefits, not give them away.

The rejection of the proposed changes, said players association Wednesday, is rooted in the idea that a restructuring can move money around, but not diminish it.

"It was clear it crossed the line ... and by a huge margin," said Gene Orza, the union's No. 2 official. "The principal involved is a transcendent one, affecting all of Alex's fellow players. To his credit, Alex, from the outset, recognized this."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Whether Selig's announcement Thursday strikes the death blow to a trade that would send Manny Ramirez to the Rangers for the reigning AL MVP is still a matter of conjecture.

Red Sox President/CEO Larry Lucchino issued a statement after the deadline saying, "The proposed trade between the Boston Red Sox and the Texas Rangers is dead."

"The Players Association's intransigence and the arbitrary nature of its action are responsible for the deal's demise today," said Lucchino. "Reports that negotiations are continuing and shall continue are inaccurate."

However, in a news conference shortly thereafter, Rangers GM John Hart said, "We still have a possibility of making a trade."

Rangers owner Tom Hicks would probably talk to the Red Sox to try to work out an agreement after all, Hart said.

Sources behind the scenes told ESPN.com's Jayson Stark on Thursday night that despite rumblings that the two clubs had closed the gap shortly before the deadline, there is virtually no chance of the deal being revived.

For one thing, these sources said, there is no indication that Selig is willing to open another window. In fact, he's believed to be opposed to doing so.

A second problem is that the Red Sox would still need to find a landing spot for Nomar Garciaparra, whom A-Rod would supplant at shortstop in Boston. Trading Garciaparra to the White Sox for Magglio Ordonez, who would replace Ramirez in left field, was said to be an option but Chicago has been talking to several teams about Ordonez.

As one source involved in the discussions told Stark, it won't be long before "things are going to unravel. Everybody is going to move on from here," very quickly making it difficult to revive the A-Rod trade.

On the other hand, ESPN's Peter Gammons reported on TV Thursday night that A-Rod's agent, Scott Boras, remains in New York, available to negotiate. Furthermore, other sources indicate the trade can be revived, according to Gammons, who thinks it could be a done deal by Christmas.

Several sources told Stark that there were still two major disagreements when the deadline arrived.

One, as expected, was the dispute between the union's No. 2 official, Gene Orza, and the Red Sox over their proposal to reduce the guaranteed money in Rodriguez's contract in return for giving him the right to become a free agent after each of the seven remaining years of the contract.

But it was believed that Orza argued that given the depressed state of the market, adding the right to free agency didn't constitute equal value to the money being given up. Thus, Orza's rejection of the renegotiated contract Wednesday after A-Rod and the Red Sox reached agreement.

Boras told The Associated Press Thursday that the proposal would have cost his client $28 million off the richest contract in sports history, according to the team's evaluation -- though the union estimated that loss to be $30 million.

The second stumbling block had nothing to do with Orza or the union.

A source told Stark that Lucchino was adamant about not giving up any cash to Texas as part of the trade -- and he stuck to that point even when it appeared Rodriguez was willing to reduce the worth of the contract by $28 million. The Rangers were just as insistent that they had to receive cash, plus Ramirez, for the deal to be worth making.

"It's unfortunate that the Players' Association felt it necessary to take a legal position which prevented the player and at least two teams from effectuating an agreement that they felt was beneficial," said Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer.

Texas had balked at paying the entire $97.5 million remaining on Ramirez's contract, and Boston had been negotiating with Rodriguez for a restructuring of his deal that could have allowed the Red Sox to absorb some of the money due Ramirez. According to Gammons, the Rangers dropped their demand of $5 million for five years to $5 million for three years.

"In the spirit of cooperation, I advised the Red Sox I am willing to restructure my contract, but only within the guidelines prescribed by union officials," Rodriguez said in a statement he read to AP while negotiations were still proceeding. "I recognize the principle involved, and fully support the need to protect the interests of my fellow players.

"If my transfer to the Red Sox is to occur, it must be done with consideration of the interests of all major league players, not just one. Any statements by club officials suggesting my position is different than stated is inaccurate and unfortunate."

Rodriguez and Ramirez are baseball's only $20 million-a-year players. Rodriguez's contract has seven years and $179 million remaining on it, and Ramirez has finished three seasons of the $160 million, eight-year deal that he agreed to the same day.

While Boras said it was up to the Red Sox to find a way to restructure Rodriguez's contract without reducing its value, according to the AP he said Thursday that Rodriguez offered to reduce salaries in his contract by $12 million in exchange for increased marketing and logo use rights.

Wednesday's talks were held in New York, but Thursday's negotiations were done by telephone. Rob Manfred, who handled these negotiations for the commissioner's office, and Orza traveled to Florida for Bubba Trammell's grievance hearing, which was settled Thursday.

Manfred told Stark on Thursday evening that Selig was satisfied that "both teams are complying with the commisioner's directive that discussions end at 5 o'clock."

"We remain disappointed that the union's position became an impediment to an issue that both clubs and the player agreed on," Manfred said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.