Rangers would get Soriano, financial flexibility

Updated: February 15, 2004, 1:26 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

The Rangers and Yankees have finalized a trade that will send shortstop Alex Rodriguez to New York for Alfonso Soriano and a player to be named, ESPN has learned.

A statement will be released at 2 p.m. ET. A news conference is scheduled for Monday, likely in New York.

New Bronx Bombers
The Yankees' potential lineup with A-Rod, per inning based on 2004 salaries.
Player Dollars/9 innings
1. Kenny Lofton, CF $2,126
2. Derek Jeter, SS $11,659
3. Alex Rodriguez, 3B $14,403
4. Jason Giambi, 1B $6,858
5. Gary Sheffield, RF $8,916
6. Bernie Williams, DH $8,230
7. Jorge Posada, C $4,115
8. Hideki Matsui, LF $4,801
9. Miguel Cairo, 2B $617
Kevin Brown, RHP $10,288
Total $72,013

Yankees captain Derek Jeter would remain the team's shortstop, meaning Rodriguez would be moved from short to third base to fill the hole created when Aaron Boone hurt a knee last month in a pickup basketball game.

Rangers officials said Saturday night, prior to the deal's completion, that they believe they'd be getting in return for the 28-year-old AL MVP something far more important than a young slugger in Soriano.

"It's about flexibility," Texas general manager John Hart said. "We're trading the best player in the game and we're getting tremendous financial flexibility."

The framework of the deal included the agreement that the Yankees would take on much of the $179 million remaining on Rodriguez's landmark $252 million contract.

The Yankees would pay Rodriguez an average of about $16 million a year, which translates to Texas assuming $67 million of the $179 million left on Rodriguez's contract. Two sources told The Associated Press that Texas has agreed to those terms.

Rodriguez also has agreed to defer some money by five more years -- pushing the last payment back to 2025 -- and at a reduced interest rate, one of the sources said.

According to ESPN's Peter Gammons, the Rangers would pay $40 million of the $179 million in salary that Rodriguez is owed over the final seven years of his contract and would pick up $27 million of the deferred amount of that contract, which they do not have to pay for 10-12 years.

With those moves, Texas gains about $120 million in flexibility. As for the Yankees, their already hefty payroll would continue to expand.

In addition to the salary owed Rodriguez, he is due $4 million from his signing bonus and $12 million deferred at 3 percent annual interest from salaries during his first three years with Texas.

The New York Post reported that the Yankees would likely have to include Jose Contreras as well as minor-league catcher Dioner Navarro in the trade.

Soriano, 26, will make $5.4 million this year and has two more years of salary arbitration eligibility remaining. The two-time All-Star can become a free agent after the 2006 season.

Thus, the Yankees would take on an extra $183.6 million guaranteed.

The Yankees' payroll currently stands at $170.3 million, not including left-hander Gabe White, who remains in arbitration and will earn at least $1,825,000. A swap of Soriano for Rodriguez leaves New York's payroll at about $190 million.

The trade proposal requires approval from the commissioner's office and the players' association. Although the union already scuttled a potential Rodriguez trade to Boston this offseason, the contract-restructuring issues were considered less likely to be deal-breakers this time.

"We're in a very sensitive stage right now," Hart said. "A deal of this magnitude, with all the moving parts, it takes time."

The tremendous savings go a long way toward helping reshape a franchise badly in need of an overhaul.

Of course, Texas also would be without its best player, the one recently named captain. But the Rangers have finished last in their division four straight years, the past three with Rodruguez.

The losing wore on Rodriguez, prompting him to tell the club he'd waive his no-trade clause for a select few teams. Roller-coaster negotiations almost landed him in Boston for Manny Ramirez, who has five years and $97.5 million left on his contract.

Financially, the deal with New York is better for Texas.

While not quite the well-rounded hitter Ramirez is, Soriano is a two-time All-Star with a career average of .284. He's narrowly missed having 40 homers and 40 stolen bases in each of the past two seasons, going 38-35 last season and 39-41 the year before.

"Look at Soriano's numbers," Hart said. "This is no stiff we're bringing back here."

Soriano also is strikeout prone and an average defender. Texas would consider moving him to center field.

However, trading Soriano creates a hole at second base. If the deal is made, Enrique Wilson, Miguel Cairo and Erick Almonte would be among the candidates to play second for the Yankees.

The Rangers gave the Yankees one potential replacement last week when they swapped Mike Lamb for a minor-league pitcher. Then Hart and New York general manager Brian Cashman began talking about making Rodriguez the first reigning MVP to be traded.

Hart said Texas owner Tom Hicks -- who supported the deal with Boston -- "was reluctant, initially" on the Yankees trade.

"But as we've gone along in the process, I've been able to make him more comfortable," Hart said. "It's a potential win-win-win situation for the Rangers, the Yankees and Alex Rodriguez."

Rodriguez hit .298 last season with 47 homers, 118 RBI and 17 stolen bases, and Soriano batted .290 with 38 homers, 91 RBI and 35 steals.

Second baseman Michael Young seems the most likely replacement for Rodriguez at shortstop. That would mean Soriano or Eric Young, a veteran signed to be a utility backup, would play second base.

Another scenario would be leaving Michael Young at second and letting prospect Drew Meyer take over at shortstop.

The Rangers also are high on prospect Ramon Nivar, an infielder in the minors who was converted to the outfield last season partly because of a perceived logjam in the infield.

New York opens spring training Tuesday, and Texas starts two days later.

Information from ESPN baseball analyst Peter Gammons, ESPN.com senior writer Jayson Stark, and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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