Braves money on Sheffield's table

Originally Published: November 30, 2003
ESPN.com news services

Contrary to published reports, the Yankees are not close to signing free agent slugger Gary Sheffield.

Despite the urge to respond to Boston's acquisition of Curt Schilling, the Yankees are holding firm in their negotiations with Sheffield, ESPN.com's Buster Olney has learned. The Yankees are offering the free-agent outfielder a three-year deal with an annual salary of $11 million, the amount Sheffield earned with the Braves in 2003.

Published reports indicated the potential deal includes a fourth-year option and is worth between $38 million and $40 million.

"Sheffield is still talking in the clouds," a source told ESPN.com, adding that Sheffield talked as recently as last week about a desire to re-sign with Atlanta.

Newsday reported Saturday that the Yankees and Sheffield had all but agreed to a deal. The New York Daily News reported that the signing was a formality, but the two sides would wait until after Dec. 7, the last day the Braves can offer Sheffield arbitration. If they do, and Sheffield turns them down, then Atlanta cannot negotiate with him any longer.

That would leave the Yankees as the only serious contender to sign Sheffield, even though they would still have to send a draft pick to the Braves.

Sheffield, 35, has played for the Brewers, Padres, Marlins, Dodgers and Braves during a productive, albeit sometimes stormy career. With the Braves last season, he hit .330 with 39 homers, 132 RBI and 18 stolen bases.

Dwight Gooden, Sheffield's uncle and a former Yankees pitcher, helped convince the All-Star to seriously consider New York.

The Yankees are looking for a corner outfielder to go with regulars Hideki Matsui and Bernie Williams. Last season, after they traded Raul Mondesi, the Yankees used Karim Garcia, Juan Rivera, David Dellucci and Ruben Sierra in right field, with mixed results.

Acquiring Schilling was a high priority for the Yankees. However, the team reportedly could not match the group of minor leaguers that the Red Sox eventually gave up for right-hander.

The Yankees also have their sights set on keeping free agent Andy Pettitte in the Bronx. Free agents Bartolo Colon and Montreal's Javier Vazquez are also on their wish list.