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Why Sox struck out

Team valued its finances more than A-Rod

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Tomorrow at noon in Yankee Stadium, barring an unforeseen roadblock thrown up by baseball commissioner Bud Selig, Alex Rodriguez will be introduced as the newest member of the New York Yankees, an acquisition already hailed in the New York tabloids as the best by the team since the purchase of Babe Ruth, one No. 3 coming on board 84 years after the other.

It took the Yankees roughly four days to accomplish what the Red Sox were unable to pull off in negotiations that began Oct. 19, three days after the Yankees beat the Red Sox in Game 7 of the ALCS, and ended Dec. 23, when the Sox rejected the last proposal placed on the table by Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks.

Under the terms of the deal as reported by the Associated Press, in which the Yankees sent second baseman Alfonso Soriano to Texas (plus another player believed to be a minor league pitcher), the Rangers agreed to assume $67 million of the $179 million left on Rodriguez's contract. The Rangers never made a similar proposal to the Sox, because they had agreed to take on Manny Ramirez and the roughly $100 million left over the final five years of his contract.

On the contrary, the Rangers first asked the Sox for $25 million -- $5 million a year for five years -- toward Ramirez's contract, a demand they dropped to $15 million in the final stages of the negotiations. In the end, Rodriguez and Hicks worked out a private agreement in which Rodriguez would pay Hicks $15 million for his freedom, with Hicks dropping his demand for that cash from the Sox -- as long as they assumed the full amount of Rodriguez's contract.

The Sox refused, even though Rodriguez signaled to the Sox a willingness to revisit his contract after four years, when he had the right to become a free agent. Rodriguez indicated to the Sox, according to a source with first-hand knowledge of the negotiations, that if they weren't winning and making money, he would be willing to take a cut in pay after four years. If the converse were true, the source said, then Rodriguez would have expected the Sox to bump up his contract.

But the Sox, who attempted to reduce the value of Rodriguez's contract by an average of $4 million a year but were rebuffed by the players' union, decided that the deal could not work for them financially. That came as a disappointment to Selig, who had worked behind the scenes in an effort to make the deal happen because he viewed it as a positive for all parties involved -- for Rodriguez, because he told the commissioner he wanted it; for Hicks, who according to industry sources needed financial relief; and for the Sox, who in Rodriguez would be acquiring a dynamic face for the franchise as well as a marquee player who potentially could give them the upper hand on the Yankees.

Major League Baseball also viewed it as an enormous plus for Rodriguez to be playing for one of the game's signature franchises in Boston instead of in Texas, where Rodriguez's impact was considerably smaller.

Instead, Rodriguez ends up in pinstripes. "I think it's a great day for Texas, which freed up a ton of money, a great day for the Yankees, and a sad day for baseball," said one major industry executive.

The Red Sox did not make the deal for Rodriguez, the executive said, because they were committed to adhering to a plan of financial discipline that places a premium on winning, but without losing money in the process.

"Money talks," Sox CEO Larry Lucchino said Saturday. "They reached into their treasury and made it happen."

But because the Sox were not willing to compromise their approach, Rodriguez will be wearing pinstripes. The deal impacts the Sox in two other ways: They will be extremely hard-pressed to find another trading partner willing to take on Ramirez's contract, and with A-Rod and Derek Jeter both on the Yankees, incumbent Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra appears to have gained tremendous leverage in negotiating a new contract with the club.

"Nomar holds the hammer now," said one industry source.

Rodriguez attended the University of Miami baseball game Saturday and was preparing to fly to New York today. As much as he had hoped to go to the Red Sox and had some reservations about becoming a Yankee, especially since a move to New York would mean changing positions from shortstop to third base because the Yankees already had Jeter, Rodriguez relished the prospect of staying in Texas even less.

He told associates he views the move to third as a "challenge."

Under the terms of the deal with the Rangers, the Yankees will pay A-Rod $15 million in 2004, 2005, and 2006, $16 million in 2007 and 2008, $17 million in 2009, and $18 million in 2010. In the first four years of the contract, $1 million per year will be deferred without interest.

The Rangers will pay $3 million of Rodriguez's contract in 2004, $6 million in 2005 and 2006, $7 million in 2007, $8 million in 2008, $7 million in 2009 and $6 million in 2010.

There is an additional $24 million in deferred money the Rangers will pay on which the interest level was reduced from 3 percent to 2, with Rodriguez receiving a couple of perks -- including a suite on the road -- in exchange for agreeing to do so. In all, the Rangers will be paying $36 million in deferred cash, including money deferred from 2001 to 2003, plus the $10 million signing bonus.

Rodriguez agreed to a later payment schedule, pushing it back to 2016-2025 from 2011 to 2020.

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