Texas may be offering A-Rod $252 million deal

  • LARRY LaRUE / The News Tribune
  • Sunday, December 10, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

By LARRY LaRUE

The News Tribune

DALLAS – It was the kind of question the guy with the microphone might have liked to rework, asking Lou Piniella if he would describe himself as “hopeful” or “optimistic” about the Seattle Mariners chances of signing free agent Alex Rodriguez.

“Let’s say I’m hopefully optimistic,” Piniella deadpanned.

As Day 3 of the 2000 baseball winter meetings slid away into the night, the Mariners remained optimistic about their pursuit of A-Rod – and well aware that his agent, Scott Boras, was meeting late into the evening with the Texas Rangers.

“We met with Scott earlier today,” Mariners general manager Pat Gillick said Sunday evening, “and we’re really not going to say anything more about it.

“Things are at a pretty delicate stage right now.”

One factor went against the Mariners on Sunday – the Toronto Blue Jays re-signed their shortstop, Alex Gonzalez, to a four-year contract. Gonzalez was thought to be a fallback signing for the M’s if they lost Rodriguez.

In all, the Mariners have spent their first 21/2 days in Texas talking to 10 teams about trades, still looking for a productive third baseman, a left-handed hitting catcher and a deal that might clear room in their outfield.

But much of their focus, and nearly all the media attention, has been on the A-Rod Derby – which has apparently become a three- or four-team race.

“We don’t know who’s in the final group, truthfully,” Piniella said. “We have ideas, but we don’t know. I keep hearing it’s us, Atlanta, Texas and a mystery team.”

Boras continues to plant the idea that an unnamed team has pushed it’s way into the bidding for Rodriguez, but the White Sox, Dodgers, Mets and Rockies have all backed out.

By mid-evening Saturday, the Braves quietly acknowledge they remain interested but insisted they hadn’t made an offer to Rodriguez.

“Everybody in the world would want that kid, but we have a pretty good shortstop in Rafael Furcal,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “Our priority right now is first base. We lost Andres Galarraga.”

The Rangers, on the other hand, were happy to proclaim that no one would outbid them in their run for the All-Star shortstop, and the whisper-machine came up with the staggering possibility of a $252 million offer.

“We’re in it and we plan on staying in it until the end,” Texas GM Doug Melvin said. “What we’re doing this weekend is trying to show him our commitment to winning.”

The Rangers, who signed Galarraga to be their designated hitter, on Sunday added former National League MVP third baseman Ken Caminiti and right-handed reliever Mark Petkovsek.

Seattle is basing much of its hope on A-Rod’s attachment to the only franchise he has ever played for, to what they believe is a highly competitive offer – the highest in baseball history – and on their own commitment to winning.

“We’re the team he started with, and I think any player who’s played his whole career somewhere wants to give that team a long, long look before leaving,” Piniella said.

“We’ve improved since October. Alex wanted to see improvement last year, and Pat gave him an example of ownership’s commitment then, and it’s continued this offseason.’

Piniella said that after talking to A-Rod, he came away convinced he has no problem with the current dimensions of Safeco Field, despite saying on his own Web site that the fences needed to be moved in.

“We had one of the better home winning percentages in the league, and he wouldn’t want to have that change,” Piniella said. “We talked about two, three years down the road, if the team changed – if we had a team built more on offense – the situation might be different.

“But he wants what’s best for 25 players, not for one. The park suits our team, and I think Alex is fine with that.”

An interested bystander to all this was Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who clearly wasn’t happy with the prospect of A-Rod going to either Texas or Seattle.

“I’m hoping Montreal jumps up and takes him,” Scioscia said. “He is a force, and whatever team gets him becomes the division favorite.”

Whether the race for Rodriguez was winding up or revving down depended on who was asked. Boras insisted he and his client trimmed the list of interested teams, but it appeared that most teams had taken themselves out of the chase.

The Mariners are still in, but they’re taking a realistic approach.

“Pat has a Plan B and a Plan C,” Piniella said. “He always does. I just hope it doesn’t come to that.”

  • Around the meetings: Major league umpires were told Sunday to call the high strike next season and, in a move pitchers will love, to stop hitters from wearing body armor at the plate. Hitters can still wear elbow pads, just not the Robocop-looking wrist-to-should armor that allowed them to hang over the plate without fear of the inside pitch. “You wear that to the plate, hang over the inside corner and the pitcher can’t throw you an inside strike without hitting you,” Twins manager Tom Kelly said. “You throw that same hitter a pitch away – because that’s where he’s looking – and he hits it seven miles. It’s one of the reasons I finished in last place.” … The Angels made a minor-league trade, sending rookie pitcher Seth Etherton to the Cincinnati Reds for AAA shortstop Wily Caceres. The surprise? The Angels hinted that Caceres might be their opening-night shortstop. … When two members of the Japanese media talked to Piniella about Ichiro Suzuki, he turned the tables and asked them a question – how fast was Suzuki? One of the reporters gave him Suzuki’s 100-meter time, but Piniella just shook his head. “One hundred meters?” he squawked. “You run 100 meters in baseball and you’ve run out of the bleeping ballpark.”
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