Rangers' Hicks calls it off

Originally Published: December 23, 2003
ESPN.com news services

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Alex Rodriguez was ready to go to Boston, and the Texas Rangers were doing their part to make it happen.

But after nearly two months of discussions, the American League MVP is staying in Texas.

Attempts to complete a trade of baseball's only $20 million-a-year players -- Rodriguez to Boston for outfielder Manny Ramirez -- ended Tuesday after Rangers owner Tom Hicks' deadline passed without a deal.

"We both recognized there was too big a gulf to bridge," Hicks said. "Neither one of us thought it would take the public profile it did, or get as complex as it did."

Talks collapsed last week after the players' association rejected a proposal by the Red Sox to cut $28 million to $30 million off A-Rod's record $252 million contract.

Red Sox owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner, president Larry Lucchino and general manager Theo Epstein issued a joint statement Tuesday saying "no further discussions regarding this transaction are planned."

Rodriguez's agent also agreed that the talks were finally over.

"Tom Hicks has indicated he would not consider a trade for Alex Rodriguez in the immediate future," said the shortstop's agent, Scott Boras.

Hicks spoke several times Tuesday to Rodriguez, and said the shortstop was "happy" to remain with the Rangers.

"I'm 100 percent certain that when the Rangers show up for spring training in Surprise, Ariz., the guy that will be working the hardest and the guy that will be our team leader will be Alex Rodriguez," Hicks said.

While the Associated Press reported that no talks were taking place as the latest deadline approached, ESPN's Peter Gammons reported late Tuesday afternoon that Rodriguez appealed to Hicks to drop his demand of $13 million from the Red Sox. Rodriguez was willing to give up $27 million -- $13 million in givebacks to the Red Sox and $14 million in Massachusetts state income taxes -- to get to Boston and what's shaping up to be a winning team there.

Hicks agreed to drop some of his asking price, but not all, and the Red Sox apparently could not make the deal happen without further concessions from the union, which weren't forthcoming given Lucchino's personal attack last week on Gene Orza, the union's No. 2 official.

Finally, as Hicks' self-imposed deadline approached, and after a month of negotiations, the Red Sox turned down the Rangers' offer of Rodriguez for Ramirez and left-handed pitcher Jon Lester.

Rodriguez's average annual valued salary is approximately $6 million more than Ramirez's, so with the $13 million concession approved by the union, Boston ownership decided that Rodriguez was not worth an extra $4 million a year, reports Gammons.

Hicks is adament that the deal is now over, dead -- but, of course, this deal has had a half-dozen deaths. However, a source close to the negotiations told ESPN that not only is Hicks dead serious, but that Rodriguez has doubts now about Boston as well.

If the deal was to be revived, Henry had said, "I don't believe there are any public statements I could make that would be helpful to the process other than to say that although there have been disagreements, I believe the principals involved on all sides have had good intentions thus far."

Lucchino proclaimed the trade "dead" last Thursday, blaming the players' association for not approving a steeper proposed reduction in Rodriguez's contract. Texas also blamed the union, but didn't give up on the deal.

If Rodriguez went to Boston, the Red Sox presumably would then trade longtime shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, possibly to the Chicago White Sox.

Rodriguez's 10-year contract has seven years and $179 million remaining. Ramirez has five years and $97.5 million left on the $160 million, eight-year contract he agreed to the same day Rodriguez signed his record deal.

During negotiations last week, the players' association said Rodriguez's agreement could be restructured but not reduced.

Instead, the union said it would approve a change that would lower the contract by $12 million to $13 million in exchange for Rodriguez getting the right to use Boston's logo and trademarks in marketing deals. In addition, he'd be able to become a free agent after the 2005 season.

With the A-Rod situation resolved, the Rangers are moving forward to fill some immediate needs for 2004, such as a corner outfielder, utility infielder and, as always, pitching.

General manager John Hart has been talking to potential players over the past few weeks, but most of those talks were contingent on what happened with Rodriguez.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.