Yankees trade Sheffield to Tigers for 3 pitching prospects

Friday, November 10th 2006, 6:00 pm
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) Gary Sheffield left New York with what he wanted: a $28 million contract extension through 2009 and a promise that he wouldn't be playing 1st base.

Sheffield was traded from the Yankees to the Detroit Tigers on Friday for three pitching prospects in the first major trade of the offseason, a deal that brings him back to Tigers manager Jim Leyland and team president Dave Dombrowski.

``I was ecstatic because I get reunited with the people that I've always loved,'' Sheffield said. ``They're business-minded. They're smart people. They're respectful people. They treat you like men. That's what you want to be around. To reunite with them after 10 years is a blessing.''

New York gets right-handers Humberto Sanchez, Kevin Whelan and Anthony Claggett.

In 1997, Sheffield won a World Series title for the Florida Marlins, managed by Leyland under Dombrowski, who was the team's general manager.

``This is one of the ultimate bats in baseball and one of the ultimate people in baseball,'' Leyland said. ``I have the utmost respect for him. I can't tell you how happy we are. It's almost unbelievable. It's hard for me to believe that we landed Gary Sheffield.''

Detroit and New York reached a tentative agreement on the deal Tuesday night, and the Tigers had a three-day window to agree to a contract extension. Sheffield and the Tigers agreed Thursday to the new contract, which includes some deferred money, and Sheffield took a physical Friday.

Sheffield, who turns 38 on November 18th, has 455 homers in 19 seasons but became superfluous in New York after the Yankees acquired Bobby Abreu from Philadelphia in late July. Sheffield topped 34 homers and 120 RBIs in each of his first two seasons with the Yankees, but missed most of 2006 with a wrist injury from an April collision with Toronto's Shea Hillenbrand.

When Sheffield returned in late September, the Yankees shifted him to 1st base.

``I have no plans to play him at first base,'' Leyland said. ``It might get on his mind and affect his hitting.''

Leyland plans to use Sheffield primarily as a designated hitter as Detroit tries to repeat as AL champions and win the World Series for the first time since 1984. Sheffield also will be a backup to Magglio Ordonez in right and possibly to Craig Monroe in left.

``We have said all along that we wanted to add a big bat as one of our goals in the offseason,'' Dombrowski said. ``As things turned out, we were able to do that in a very quick fashion.''

Leyland said Sheffield would hit third, fourth or fifth.

``I made about 30 lineups out last night and I can assure you his name was in every one of them,'' he said.

New York exercised Sheffield's $13 million option last weekend to prevent him from becoming a free agent. Sheffield's first choice was to stay with New York and he said ``middle men'' on the Yankees blocked him from speaking with George Steinbrenner. Sheffield also said that if the owner's health wasn't an issue, he was confident he'd stay with the Yankees for 2007.

``The only thing I'm disappointed about is I didn't bring them a world championship,'' Sheffield said. ``That was my sole reason for going there. I didn't go for the publicity of being a Yankee. I went for the big stage to win a ring.''

The 23 year-old Sanchez was a combined 10-6 with a 2.53 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 123 innings with AAA Toledo and AA Erie this year. He is a hard thrower and was mentioned in trade speculation last summer before hurting an elbow.

Whelan, 22, was 4-1 with a 2.67 ERA and 27 saves for Class A Lakeland. Claggett, 22, was 7-2 with an 0.91 ERA and 14 saves for Class A West Michigan.

``We gave up a lot,'' Dombrowski said. ``I winced.''

Earlier this week, Sheffield had said he would retire if the Yankees sent him to a team he didn't want to be with.

``I've always said I want to go out on my terms and they allowed me to do that, and I thank them for that,'' he said.