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Tampering charges?

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  December 8, 2006 07:54 AM

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There has yet to be an official complaint, but the possibility exists that the Red Sox might face tampering charges in their successful pursuit of outfielder J.D. Drew.

The New York Times' Murray Chass reports today that the just-completed winter meetings were buzzing with the possibility that the Red Sox were operating outside the rules in their courtship of the former Dodgers outfielder, who opted out of the rest of his deal with Los Angeles, which had three years and $33 million remaining, last month to agree to one worth $70 million with the Red Sox.

"One general manager said that many people at the general managers' meetings, after hearing that Drew would sign with Boston, urged the Dodgers to file a tampering charge," Chass reports.

"We haven't reached a decision yet," Dodgers GM Ned Colletti said about whether the Dodgers were prepared to file a charge against Boston.

Red Sox GM Theo Epstein denied ever speaking to Drew beforehand, as does agent Scott Boras, but according to one executive, Dodgers owner Frank McCourt was convinced that tampering had occurred, Chass reported.

According to Chass, officials are also watching the Red Sox' negotiations with Daisuke Matsuzaka very closely, particularly after team president Larry Lucchino met with the Seibu Lions in Japan.

Lucchino said the teams discussed a possible "working relationship" in the future. But Major League Baseball moved quickly to quash speculation that Lucchino was exploring ways the Sox might recoup some of their $51.1 million posting fee from Seibu.

"There are no side deals in the situation," Jimmie Lee Solomon, executive vice president of baseball operations in the commissioner's office, told the Associated Press. "Everybody's been assured that's not allowed, and everybody's been made aware of the rules."

Still, officials are watching.

“No one can enter into an agreement that would circumvent the posting process,” Lou Melendez, major league baseball’s vice president for international operations, told Chass. “What I read would seem to be a way of getting around the posting process. The commissioner’s office would investigate. If you speak to the Japanese commissioner’s office, which we have, any kind of arrangement, this or any other, would not be allowed.”

Background information from an article by the Globe’s Gordon Edes was used in this report.

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