Juan Gone? Yankees, Tigers Have Tentative Deal

Friday, June 23rd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) — The Yankees and Detroit Tigers agreed Thursday to a tentative trade that could eventually bring outfielder Juan Gonzalez to New York.

There was no word of an agreement from either team, but the deal was confirmed to The Associated Press by a baseball lawyer who spoke on the condition he not be identified.

The lawyer did not say which players the Yankees would send to Detroit for the two-time American League Most Valuable Player, who is eligible for free agency after the season.

The next step would be for Gonzalez to waive his no-trade clause. Only when that happens would the Yankees be given a 72-hour window to sign Gonzalez to a contract extension. The extension would be needed to make the trade final.

``What deal?'' Gonzalez said in Toronto before going 1-for-3 in Detroit's 7-4 loss to the Blue Jays. ``Rumors. There's lots of rumors. I'm going to talk to my agent after the game.''

A new contract figures to be a major obstacle for the Yankees. After acquiring Gonzalez from Texas on Nov. 2 in a nine-player trade, the Tigers attempted to sign him to an extension.

Detroit was said to have offered a $140 million, eight-year deal, which would be baseball's richest in total and average, but Gonzalez was said to have wanted $148 million or more. The figures have never been confirmed by the Tigers or Gonzalez's agents.

Neither Tigers general manager Randy Smith nor Gonzalez's agents, Jim Bronner and Bob Gilhooley, were available for comment. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman declined comment.

``As far as anything being close to happening, I don't know anything more now than I did before,'' Yankees manager Joe Torre said in Boston after lunching with owner George Steinbrenner.

Drew Henson, projected to be Michigan's starting quarterback this fall, likely would be included in any deal. Henson is a third-base prospect and was selected to play in baseball's prestigious Futures game in Atlanta next month, but there's no assurance he will choose baseball over football.

Outfielders Ricky Ledee and Shane Spencer, infielder Alfonso Soriano and pitcher Jake Westbrook, who dropped to 0-2 with Thursday's 4-2 loss at Boston, also are possibilities.

``I just don't like talking about it,'' Ledee said. ``If they make it, they make it. It's not my choice, at some time, it can happen.''

The Yankees, who have won three World Series titles in four years, dropped a half-game behind Boston in the AL East with the loss.

New York began the night ninth in the AL in home runs with 85 and sixth in batting average at .278.

Left field and designated hitter have been major disappointments for the Yankees, causing Steinbrenner to push for change. Ledee is hitting .239 with six homers and 28 RBIs, and Shane Spencer is batting .274 with nine homers and 31 RBIs.

Gonzalez, 30-year-old right-handed hitter, also has struggled, batting just .260 with 13 homers and 30 RBIs.

To get offense, New York has offered a variety of prospects in its rich farm system, but the Yankees' proposal was unclear. New York also has talked with the Chicago Cubs about Sammy Sosa, but the Cubs have demanded nearly all the top prospects in New York's system, one of the baseball lawyers said.

Some Yankees officials have argued that instead of offense, New York should concentrate its efforts on pitching. DAVID CONE (1-6) and ROGER CLEMENS (4-6) have struggled, Clemens is on the disabled list and Orlando Hernandez sprained an elbow last weekend.

Still, at 4.43, the Yankees began the night with the league's third-best ERA, trailing only Boston (3.95) and Chicago (4.34).