The on-again, off-again deal that would have sent superstar shortstop Alex Rodriguez to the Boston Red Sox is off again, probably for good.
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig withdrew permission for the Red Sox to negotiate with Rodriguez, ending an effort to restructure his record $252 million contract and shelving a trade that would have delivered outfielder Manny Ramirez to the Texas Rangers for baseball's highest-paid player.
Selig had set a 5 p.m. deadline for completion of the deal, the day after the Major League Baseball Players Association rejected an agreement between the Red Sox and Rodriguez to restructure A-Rod's compensation for the final seven years of the 10-year contract.
Talks aimed at reaching a compromise with the union stretched 20 minutes past the deadline before Selig decided enough was enough.
"Due to the unique and complex nature of the negotiations surrounding the proposed transaction involving Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez and the number of teams involved, the negotiations did not reach a successful conclusion by the deadline set," Selig said in a statement released by the commissioner's office. "I have terminated my permission for Boston and Alex Rodriguez to continue pursuing this transaction at this time."
Red Sox president Larry Lucchino blasted the union and declared that the deal was off.
"The proposed trade between the Boston Red Sox and the Texas Rangers is dead," Lucchino said. "The players association's intransigence and the arbitrary nature of its action are responsible for the deal's demise today."
Rangers general manager John Hart conceded that the trade is now very unlikely, but would not rule out further discussions with the Red Sox aimed at completing the deal without reworking Rodriguez's giant contract.
The Red Sox were seeking to defer part of the approximately $180 million guaranteed to Rodriguez over the next seven years, but the union rejected the contract revisions because it viewed the restructured deal as being worth less than the original.
Union officials obviously did not want to set a precedent that could lead to more attempts by budget-conscious teams to pressure players into restructuring multi-year deals - something that is very common in the National Football League and other professional sports that have hard salary caps.
MLPBA general counsel Gene Orza had said from the start that the union would only go along with the deal if the changes led to a net benefit for Rodriguez. Orza met with Rodriguez, Red Sox GM Theo Epstein and MLB negotiator Rob Manfred on Wednesday to examine the agreement, but rejected it after several hours of discussions.
Both the union and the commissioner's office have the right to examine individual contracts to make sure they meet all the requirements of the collective bargaining agreement.
There was speculation Wednesday night that Selig might approve the deal and force the union to file a grievance to overturn it, but Rodriguez released a statement yesterday saying that he would only waive his no-trade clause if the trade received the blessing of the union.
"In the spirit of cooperation, I advised the Red Sox I am willing to restructure my contract, but only within the guidelines prescribed by union officials," Rodriguez said in a prepared statement released to the Associated Press. "I recognize the principle involved, and fully support the need to protect the interests of my fellow players."
Rangers officials have said all along they would be happy to have Rodriguez in their lineup in 2004, and owner Tom Hicks had indicated they would withdraw from trade talks if the deal wasn't completed by the end of this week. The collapse of the trade, however, could create internal problems for the Red Sox, who reportedly were ready to trade marquee shortstop Nomar Garciaparra to the White Sox or Dodgers.
Now, they may be forced to deal Garciaparra anyway. He can't be happy with the way he was being pushed aside, and the controversy only figures to increase the likelihood he would leave Boston when he becomes eligible for free agency at the end of the coming season.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.