Three-team megadeal hits snag; deadline looming

Updated: July 30, 2005, 11:39 AM ET
By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com

A proposed three-team deal involving the Boston Red Sox, New York Mets and Tampa Bay Devil Rays "hit a roadblock" Friday night, according to a baseball official familiar with the discussions, and now appears unlikely to happen at all.

Manny Ramirez
Ramirez

The deal proposed would have sent unhappy Boston slugger Manny Ramirez and Tampa Bay closer Danys Baez to the Mets, with the Red Sox acquiring outfielder/designated hitter Aubrey Huff and outfielder Mike Cameron, and the Devil Rays getting two prospects apiece from the Mets and Red Sox.

But with a 4 p.m. ET deadline looming Sunday, it could be too late to finish the blockbuster on time. An executive with one of the three teams said late Friday night that the teams have now decided if they can't get the deal patched back together by about noon Saturday, they will have no choice but to move on.

"If there are any complications involving Manny's contract, or any financial ramifications [such as luxury tax or deferral issues], that would require the approval of the commissioner's office," the executive said. "So this is not the kind of deal you can do at 3:59 p.m. Sunday."

Given that deadline, the executive said, "it's looking like it's not going to happen. Time's just running out. At some point it just becomes too late."

A source said the Red Sox felt they could not go ahead with trading Ramirez and two prime prospects -- reportedly catcher Kelly Shoppach and right-hander Anibal Sanchez -- if all they were receiving was New York's Cameron and Tampa Bay's Huff. So they went back to the Mets "for more pieces," the source reported. At that point, the Mets "squashed the whole thing" and talks broke off.

A baseball man with knowledge of the discussions said the Red Sox asked the Mets for a "key player," whom the Mets felt they couldn't trade.

An official of another club that spoke with the Mets on Friday night said the Mets also had reservations about going ahead with the deal because they would have had to assume all $64 million of Ramirez's contract, and that would have put them both over budget and over the luxury-tax threshold.

What's uncertain now is whether the deal can be revived, or even whether any portion of it can be revived. The Mets had been talking separately to the Devil Rays about Baez, and the Red Sox had been talking with Tampa Bay about Huff. Then on Friday afternoon, the teams made an attempt to connect the two trades. The Devil Rays were described by sources as being ecstatic about the prospects they would have received -- the Mets were prepared to include right-hander Yusmeiro Petit and outfielder Lastings Milledge -- so they're expected to keep pressing the Mets and Red Sox to put the pieces back together.

An official with one team who spoke with the Red Sox on Friday said Boston had gotten inquiries from at least two other teams about trading for Ramirez -- but that any attempt to rev up talks with those clubs Saturday would run into the same time constraints.

So barring something miraculous, it appears Ramirez will still be with the Red Sox come next week -- and for the rest of the year.

"We tried," said a frustrated official from one of the three clubs involved in the negotiations. "It just didn't work."

Jayson Stark | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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