A-Rod stands by union's stance

Originally Published: December 18, 2003
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The Players' Association got in the middle of the proposed Alex Rodriguez trade Wednesday, forcing the Red Sox and Rangers to seek another way to complete the blockbuster deal they had already agreed on. And A-Rod himself will not agree to the deal without the union's blessing.

Boston and Texas said they settled on all the players involved in the trade. The Red Sox and Rodriguez agreed to restructure the shortstop's $252 million contract, Rangers owner Tom Hicks said.

But in a rare move, the union intervened and rejected the agreement, changes that were needed before Texas could send the AL MVP to the Red Sox for Manny Ramirez.

"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 Thursday in a statement he read to The Associated Press. "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."

Commissioner Bud Selig set a 5 p.m. ET Thursday deadline for the trade to be completed. He might also go against the union and approve the restructuring, likely forcing the matter to arbitration.

"It's the teams' hands," said his agent, Scott Boras said. "Unless Boston comes back with a proposal that meets the union's criteria, then the deal will not get done."

Because union official Gene Orza and management lawyer Rob Manfred traveled to Florida for Bubba Trammell's grievance hearing Thursday, the deadline may have to be extended.

If the deal does go through, Boston would probably trade longtime shortstop Nomar Garciaparra to the Chicago White Sox for outfielder Magglio Ordonez, according to ESPN's Peter Gammons.

"Given the impending deadline imposed by the office of the commissioner, the actions of the players' association may, unfortunately, determine this issue," Hicks said.

The commissioner's office said it was studying the agreement between Rodriguez and the Red Sox, but Orza, the union's No. 2 official, said it was unacceptable.

"It was clear it crossed the line ... and by a huge margin," Orza said after meeting with Rodriguez, his agent and Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. "We did suggest an offer the club could make to Alex that would not do that. As was its right, the club chose not to make it."

It was not immediately clear what the development meant to the proposed swap of baseball's only $20 million-a-year players.

Rodriguez's agent, Scott Boras, said he expects the parties to speak again Thursday.

"The dialogue is continuing," Boras said.

Rob Manfred, baseball's top labor lawyer, challenged the union's interpretation.

"The basic agreement contains a rule that requires any special covenant to be an actual or potential benefit to the player," Manfred said. "In a situation like the current situation, where there was a restructuring, where the player was getting something and the club was getting something, Gene Orza is not the final arbitrator on whether the restructuring provides an actual or potential benefit to the player. The commissioner currently is considering his legal options in consultation with the two teams."

While no one detailed the agreement between Rodriguez and the Red Sox, Boston president Larry Lucchino said the union proposed "radical changes."

The agreement called for some salary to be reduced and some to be deferred in exchange for giving Rodriguez the right to become a free agent earlier in the deal, a high-ranking baseball official said on the condition of anonymity.

Currently, Rodriguez can end the contract after the 2007 season. He also can end it after 2008 or 2009 unless he gets an annual increase from $27 million to either $32 million or $1 million above the largest salary of any position player.

"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."

That's not the way Orza saw it.

"The principle involved is a transcendent one, affecting all of Alex's fellow players," he said. "To his credit, Alex, from the outset, recognized this."

If Selig approves the restructuring and the union files a grievance to block it, the case would go to Shyam Das, baseball's arbitrator.

There was a posting on a Red Sox fan Web site saying, "It's an astonishing ending, isn't it? Astonishing. In fact, it transcends baseball."

The posting on the "Sons of Sam Horn" site was by "JohnWHenry," which club owner John Henry has previously acknowledged is his screen name. Henry did not immediately return an e-mail seeking elaboration.

Rodriguez hit .298 with an AL-leading 47 home runs and 118 RBI last season. Ramirez hit .325 with 37 homers and 104 RBI.

Three consecutive last-place seasons with the Rangers have made Rodriguez long for a change.

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. He is owed $97.5 million.

The only other time in recent years the union has been so involved in this kind of negotiation was when Mo Vaughn went from the Anaheim Angels to the New York Mets after the 2001 season.

Vaughn was owed $50 million in salary and bonuses, but agreed to defer $8 million of the signing bonus and $13.75 million in salaries. As part of the agreement, the money was deferred at 5.436 percent interest and Vaughn will receive the payments from 2005 through July 2011.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press