Richie Sexson's agent insisted yesterday that no deal for his client had been consummated, even in principle, despite rampant speculation to the contrary. The Baltimore Orioles, not...
ANAHEIM, Calif. Richie Sexson’s agent insisted yesterday that no deal for his client had been consummated, even in principle, despite rampant speculation to the contrary.
The Baltimore Orioles, not yet conceding defeat to Seattle in the Sexson pursuit, said they were still proceeding with negotiations.
And Mariners officials were still operating, at least privately, as if they had landed the slugger, pending results of a physical examination that supposedly took place yesterday in Seattle.
If it did, however, there was still no reason for Mariners officials to give any happy pronouncements, which could be construed as puzzling, if not problematic.
It was an odd turn of events that added a measure of confusion to a transaction that, if and when consummated, could make Sexson the highest-paid Mariner in history. The deal has been speculated to be for four years in the $48 million range.
Surrounded by reporters in the Marriott lobby yesterday as he headed for the airport, Sexson’s agent, Casey Close, said repeatedly that his client remained on the open market. He said the Orioles were still contenders.
“We understand, certainly, there will be speculation,” Close said, “but there’s nothing complete at this point, and we’re going to continue to talk to both clubs through (today).”
Furthermore, Orioles general manager Jim Beattie said, as he checked out of the hotel on the last day of baseball’s winter meetings, that Close had told him in a meeting yesterday that Baltimore was still in play for Sexson.
Beattie said he asked Close specifically about the reports that Seattle had wrapped up Sexson, and was told the deal wasn’t final. He also sought assurances that the Orioles weren’t being used as a negotiating tool to gain extra more money from Seattle.
“We’re going to talk some more,” Beattie said. “We got certain assurances he’s still open to talking to us.”
Mariners GM Bill Bavasi steadfastly declined comment on the Sexson negotiations yesterday, saying only that the club was “following up on some negotiations and trying to continue on others.”
It was, indeed, a busy day for the Seattle contingent, which plunged ahead in efforts to match Sexson’s hoped-for acquisition with another slugger.
For now, those efforts are still focusing on first baseman Carlos Delgado, whose signing would cause Sexson to play left field; and third baseman Adrian Beltre, a Scott Boras client who led the National League in home runs with 48.
If they culminate the Sexson deal, the Mariners can only afford one of those players. While Delgado may be the Mariners’ preference because of his left-handed bat, there was a sense in some quarters yesterday that they were growing frustrated on that front, and may have shifted their focus more strongly to Beltre. The Mariners met yesterday with Boras, and also had two meetings with the agent for Delgado, David Sloane.
Delgado, thought to be reluctant to take much of a pay cut from his salary last year of $19.7 million in light of a bullish market for free agents, is likely to get a strong bid from Baltimore if the Orioles lose out on Sexson. And the Yankees, looking to replace Jason Giambi, are still in the picture, which is always an ominous sign. The Yankees reportedly met with Sloane yesterday, but the Mets are probably out after throwing their money at Pedro Martinez.
The Dodgers are believed to be the Mariners’ strongest competition for Beltre. Los Angeles is under increasing pressure to re-sign him, having lost out on two possible third-base alternatives, Troy Glaus and Corey Koskie. However, the Dodgers could play newly acquired Jeff Kent at third.
Boras is trying to take the bidding into the seven-year range, territory that both the Dodgers and Mariners are reluctant to enter.
If they lose out on both Delgado and Beltre, the Mariners could shift their focus to acquiring a shortstop, with Edgar Renteria the best free agent left on the market. The Cardinals, Red Sox and Tigers, among others, are vying for Renteria. Orlando Cabrera, brother of the Mariners’ Jolbert Cabrera, is also a free agent after helping Boston win the World Series.
As for Sexson, the medical concerns involve his left shoulder, which he injured initially with a checked swing last April with Arizona. He rehabbed it for three weeks, then aggravated the injury with another checked swing, prompting season-ending arthroscopic surgery on June 4 to repair a torn labrum.
The Arizona Republic has reported this winter that the Diamondbacks’ medical staff believes there is at least a 10 percent chance the injury could recur. However, Close has resisted putting safeguards against injury in Sexson’s contract.
The 6-foot-8 Sexson is known for his tremendous power, and also for his relentless practical jokes. And for a player causing so much consternation over his health, Sexson was known as an ironman until last season.
“This guy wants to play every inning of every game,” said Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin, who traded Sexson to Arizona last winter for six players, mainly because the Brewers couldn’t afford him.
“Unfortunately, he was injured last year, but he’s a lock 40-homer guy. He’s a good person in the clubhouse, too. He likes to play the game. He has a lot of fun playing it.”
Sexson’s shoulder injury last April snapped a streak of 1,642 consecutive innings played over 183 games. He played every inning in 2003 while with the Brewers, the first player to do so since Cal Ripken Jr. in 1986.
“I remember, he got hit by Juan Cruz, the Cubs pitcher (in 2003),” Melvin said. “He just drilled him in the ribs, and Richie went down. We said, ‘Oops, there’s his streak. There’s no way he’s going to play.’
“He would not come out of the game. He could hardly swing the next at-bat. But he played the rest of the game, came back, played the next game and kept on playing.”
Asked if Safeco Field might deter Sexson’s right-handed power, Melvin said, “That shouldn’t bother him. Some hitters, the guys who are probably in the 20 to 25 (homer) range, it might affect a right-handed hitter. But he’s got big power.”
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org