Getting trade approval no big deal

This time, union gave OK because cash not forfeited

February 17, 2004|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

The Alex Rodriguez trade went down without a fight this time. The Major League Baseball Players Association gave its blessing almost immediately. Commissioner Bud Selig waited until yesterday, but there was never any doubt that he would approve the blockbuster deal and the restructuring of the biggest contract in the history of baseball.

Why was it so much easier for the New York Yankees to cut through all the red tape than it was for the Boston Red Sox a couple of months ago?

Inquiring minds, particularly in Boston, want to know.

It's actually rather simple. The players' union resisted the Boston deal because it called for Rodriguez to give up millions in the value of the remaining seven years of the contract. The union has long held to a policy of not allowing players to give back money already guaranteed in an existing contract, even if - as in the Boston trade - the player is willing to do so.

Red Sox officials blasted the union for blocking the deal, but union officials weren't just being arbitrary. They were avoiding a precedent that might encourage teams to pressure high-paid players to renegotiate by threatening to trade them or reduce their playing time.

The Yankees deal called for the Texas Rangers and Yankees to share the remaining $179 million guaranteed to Rodriguez, but it did not require him to give back any substantial amount of money to either team. Rodriguez did agree to accept a slightly lower interest rate on the deferred portion of his contract, but the Yankees reportedly offset that by guaranteeing him a hotel suite at every road stop.

The union, which perhaps was still stinging from the bitter Red Sox recriminations, apparently decided that was close enough.

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