A-Rod blockbuster talks intensify

Updated: December 17, 2003, 10:03 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

The hot stove could get much hotter in the next day or two.

Red Sox owner John Henry, general manager Theo Epstein and Texas Rangers shortstop Alex Rodriguez were in New York City on Tuesday, meeting with the MLB players' union regarding a trade that would send Rodriguez to Boston, ESPN's Peter Gammons reports.

Kevin Millar says...
Q: You can have Alex Rodriguez, or you can have Manny and Nomar -- who are you taking?
A: I'm taking Alex Rodriguez, Schilling and Foulke.

Q: I don't know if it works that way. You already got those guys.
A: We got those guys, we'll take A-Rod.

Q: OK, you're quick to get rid of Nomar and Manny ... why?
A: Not quick to get rid of them. I mean, it's a tough situation.You can look at it any way, I mean Nomar Garciaparra is a two-time batting title champion. Manny Ramirez is one of greatest hitters in the league, but when you're looking at an all-around great player who can hit 50 home runs, drive in 140 and possibly, obviously win a batting title ... with his defense, A-Rod is the best in the game.

Q: [Do you think the Red Sox] would be better with A-Rod, and leave these two guys to go, Manny and Nomar?
A: Well, I mean, we have such a great click of chemistry last year it's hard to say. I'm not saying that we'll be better without those two and better with A-Rod. But when you're talking about the greatest player in baseball, I'll take my chances with that.

Dan Patrick interviewed Kevin Millar for SportsCenter on Tuesday.

Gene Orza, the union's No. 2 official, confirmed that the meeting took place but would not comment on its substance.

According to ESPN's Karl Ravech, Orza will present the Red Sox and Rodriguez with a restructured deal that is amenable to the union. If both parties sign off on the proposed restructuring, the dominoes might fall.

Earlier Tuesday, ESPN's Tim Kurkjian said on ESPNEWS that there is more than a 50-50 chance a deal would be completed that would send Rodriguez to the Red Sox, Manny Ramirez to the Rangers and Nomar Garciaparra to the Dodgers.

However, Newday reports Wednesday that the Red Sox have agreed to trade Garciaparra to the White Sox for outfielder Magglio Ordonez -- but only if A-Rod comes to Boston.

Gammons says there is a good chance a deal involving the Red Sox and Rodriguez could be completed by Wednesday.

"They're moving and plodding along," Rodriguez's agent, Scott Boras, said Tuesday night, adding that he planned to take a late flight to New York to join the talks.

The union would get involved if there was a renegotiation of A-Rod's contract; any renegotiation would have to add some benefit for the player, according to baseball's labor contract.

Earlier Tuesday, the Dallas Morning News reported that Rangers owner Tom Hicks and Henry had rekindled discussions in the past couple of days.

"We're at a sensitive point," Hicks said in a story in Tuesday's editions. "We'll know in the next few days how this is going to come out."

Hicks released a statement Tuesday evening that "we will have no further comment on this situation today" because of that sensitivity.

The Red Sox and Rangers have been discussing a trade of the sport's only $20 million men for more than a week. Talks bogged down over the sheer magnitude of the money involved -- more than $300 million remaining on the two contracts -- and the Rangers' demand that Boston pay up to $5 million a year for the next six years, in addition to more than $179 million due Rodriguez.

Boston has said it will not chip in a substantial amount toward Ramirez's salary. Even without it, the Rangers would already save about $81 million in the deal. Talk has reportedly focused on whether the Red Sox would include another player in lieu of cash.

Epstein declined to comment to the paper on the negotiations, and Boston president Larry Lucchino has said the team was going into "radio silence" on the talks until they conclude, one way or the other.

Henry hasn't responded to e-mails or calls seeking comment. However, after a series of skeptical postings about the trade on a Red Sox fan Web site, a participant identified as "JohnWHenry" said, "Come on now. Don't start to waver on us. It's the holidays. Be of good cheer! It's going to be just a great, exciting season. Hang in there."

The postings came at 4:26 a.m. Henry has confirmed that he uses that screen name for the "Sons of Sam Horn" bulletin board.

"Both teams were concerned a week ago as this thing got way too much momentum in the media for where we were all at," Hicks told the newspaper. "We agreed we'd renew conversations after the winter meetings, and we started that process today."

Epstein did say before returning to Boston on Monday that he didn't expect any announcements.

"If I were a betting man, I'd say there's nothing major in our future," he said. "We have a real strong club right now if we just fill in to complement what we have."

If the owners are able to work something out, the Red Sox are expected to trade Garciaparra. Epstein has said the team's first choice was to sign Garciaparra to a long-term deal "that makes sense for both sides."

Garciaparra turned down a four-year, $60 million offer last spring, looking for a longer and richer deal. That appeared to be a mistake in a declining market, but on Sunday former AL MVP Miguel Tejada signed a six-year, $72 million deal with Baltimore that raised doubts about whether the market was declining after all.

Garciaparra's agent, Arn Tellem, arrived in New Orleans late in the meetings and had preliminary discussions with Epstein. Although Tellem has said the A-Rod talks are a "slap in the face" of his client, Epstein said he expects no hard feelings when the team reports to spring training.

"It's a natural part of the offseason to have all kinds of speculation out there. It's what keeps everyone in business," Epstein said. "The status quo is the most likely scenario."

The most likely destination for Garciaparra, if he is traded, would be Los Angeles. Dodgers manager Jim Tracy wouldn't confirm his team was interested except to say, "We're looking for somebody to fit in the middle of our order.

"Nomar Garciaparra ... is a name that would fit in the middle of somebody's order," he said. "That's what we're looking for."

However, others said Tuesday that the Dodgers' interest had faded.

But it all depends on whether Hicks and Henry can work out the money. Then, Rodriguez has to waive the no-trade clause in his contract.

Rangers general manager John Hart has said he wanted the talks to conclude -- one way or the other -- by the end of the winter meetings so he could resume building his team. But Rodriguez will not put a deadline on the talks.

"You want your clients happy, and you want them achieving their goals," Boras said. "One of his goals is to win."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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