Gonzalez Rejects Yankees


Tuesday, June 27th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


CLEVELAND (AP) — The New York Yankees almost always get their man. This Juan got away.

Thinking a one-year, $12.5 million extension might complete a trade with Detroit, the Yankees were turned down by slugger Juan Gonzalez, who rejected the deal and apparently will remain with the Tigers for the rest of the season.

The Yankees agreed last Thursday to the 3-for-1 trade for the two-time AL MVP, but he had a no-trade clause that allowed him to block the deal. The commissioner's office then gave the sides until Sunday to complete the trade, a deadline that was pushed back a day.

But by 6 p.m. Monday, the sides had no agreement and the deal was squashed.

``Good,'' Tigers manager Phil Garner said when he learned that his star player would be around for a while. ``I like it. I thought it was going to work out that way, anyway.''

Garner isn't alone. Many thought the Yankees were merely using Gonzalez to improve their efforts to get the Cubs' Sammy Sosa. And the Yankees have now reportedly heated up talks with the Cubs.

The Yankees, who will see Gonzalez in Detroit when they open a three-game series Tuesday, still appear to be intrigued by the possibility of obtaining Sosa, who would be a big hit in New York's Dominican community.

``Obviously, we're in a position where we have to wait to see if there's a condition deal made by Chicago with somebody,'' said Sosa's agent, Tom Reich. ``If and when that happens, we will move very swiftly into the window.''

The Cubs, according to a Yankees official speaking on the condition of anonymity, gave New York several combinations of players they would accept for Sosa, and there have been back-and-forth talks.

Gonzalez was back in the Tigers' lineup at DH for Monday's game after sitting out Sunday with a sore left ankle. He went 3-for-4 with an RBI triple as Detroit pounded the Indians 13-2.

``I'm happy. We win. That's it,'' was all Gonzalez had to say after the game.

While Gonzalez was willing to go to New York without an extension, which would allow him to become a free agent after the season, the Yankees wouldn't agree to complete the deal on those terms.

New York originally agreed to send outfielder Ricky Ledee to Detroit along with two minor leaguers: third baseman Drew Henson and pitcher Randy Keisler.

The Yankees decided Monday that if Gonzalez wouldn't agree to an extension, they would decrease their offer to the Tigers.

``Apparently they went back to Detroit and tried to rework it as a three-month rental,'' said Gonzalez's agent, Jim Bronner, who did not make a counter offer when his client rejected the Yankees' one-year deal.

New York for the first time confirmed the tentative trade when the Yankees announced its collapse.

``The Yankees appreciate the professionalism show by Juan Gonzalez, his agent, Jim Bronner, and the Detroit Tigers,'' New York spokesman Rick Cerrone said.

Gonzalez, eligible for free agency after the season, is making $7.5 million this year, and has been said to have turned down a $140 million, eight-year extension from the Tigers that would have made him the sport's highest-paid player.

Bronner said he informed the Yankees at 10 a.m. EDT Sunday that his client was willing to waive the no-trade clause, but said New York didn't get back with a proposal offer until after 4 p.m. EDT Monday.

``They made an offer of a one-year contract, and it was not accepted,'' he said, saying both the money and the length were issues of disagreement.

Bronner said that after he told the Yankees of his client's position on Sunday, he spoke with New York owner George Steinbrenner.

``George indicated he was excited about it, that Juan was his first choice,'' Bronner said.

Bronner said that on Monday morning, Yankees president Randy Levine said he would call back within five minutes to make a proposal, but then never called back.

``My guess is they're just going in some other direction,'' Bronner said.

Gonzalez arrived at Jacobs Field at 4 p.m. on Monday and spent nearly an hour in the trainer's room getting treatment on his ankle.

While on the training table, Gonzalez was seen talking on his cell phone as many of the Tigers outside wondered what was going on.

Gonzalez took some batting practice in the indoor cages to test his ankle, and at 5:10 p.m. was approached by Garner to see if he could play the finale of Detroit's five-game series with the Indians.

Gonzalez emerged from the clubhouse a few moments later to join his teammates who had already begun their pregame stretching.

Garner said Gonzalez told him from the beginning that he wanted to stay in Detroit.

``He told me he didn't want to go,'' Garner said. ``He said he wished he was doing better, but that he was happy in Detroit and wanted to stay. I can only go by what Juan told me.''

Garner doesn't think the Tigers will try to make another deal for Gonzalez before the July 31 trading deadline.

``I'm planning on having him here for the rest of the year no matter what deadlines we get to,'' Garner said.

News that the deal had collapsed swept quickly through the ballpark.

``I'm kind of like the fact that he's not going to New York,'' Indians general manager John Hart said. ``I'm a selfish guy.''