Truth & Rumors: Jan. 12, 2005
Posted: Wednesday January 12, 2005 11:49AM; Updated: Wednesday January 12, 2005 5:05PM
Now that the regular season is over, the NFL rumor mill is heating up. To keep you up to date, we've created a special edition of NFL Truth & Rumors.
Carlos Beltran said the Mets told him they were not finished making improvements and were pursuing the free agent Carlos Delgado. An executive with a team still courting Delgado rated the Mets the favorites to sign him. Beltran called Delgado after signing with the Mets, and he will make another recruiting pitch if GM Omar Minaya needs him to do so.
The Mets are trying to set up a meeting with Delgado for the end of this week, perhaps as early as tomorrow.
Mets CEO Jeff Wilpon warned that for another significant signing to occur, "there probably has to be the removal of money before adding money." With the Mets unable to unload Mike Piazza's contract, Wilpon was apparently referring to dealing Cliff Floyd -- and not for Sammy Sosa, a trade that might not be a money wash even under the best-case scenario. The likely moves are the signing of first baseman Travis Lee, another Boras client, and a bullpen upgrade in spring training via trade.
With Ismael Valdez, Ivan Rodriguez (now with the Tigers) and Al Leiter all receiving deferred money from the Marlins, it's a safe bet that Delgado's contract will be spread out well beyond the length of his contract if he ends up signing with with Florida, who have offered him a three-year deal worth $35 million.
Minaya has not called the Red Sox back about Doug Mientkiewicz or Kevin Millar. That could change if the Mets do not land Delgado. They talked with the Sox about Mientkiewicz, as well as reliever Byung Hyun Kim, at the winter meetings.
Mike Cameron, the Mets' Gold Glove center fielder who initially volunteered to relocate if the Mets signed Beltran, has expressed reservations about the switch in recent conversations with team officials. Possible landing places for Cameron could include Houston, Baltimore and perhaps Arizona, although a source said the Diamondbacks are close to obtaining Oakland's Eric Byrnes.
Arizona appears to be cooling on Cameron given his price tag ($15 million for two years) and health status (coming off wrist surgery). Oakland wants more than reliever Jose Valverde from Arizona in exchange for Byrnes.
The Yankees, having not gone after Beltran, know that Bernie Williams is on the decline, making them a longshot for Cameron.
With Beltran gone, the Astros have set their sights on former All-Star outfielder Jeromy Burnitz. Howard Simon, the agent for Burnitz, said Tuesday he spoke with Astros general manager Tim Purpura on Monday and that both sides are interested in working out a deal. Simon said several teams have shown an interest in Burnitz and that he hopes to have a deal in place sooner rather than later for the free agent. Among the teams reportedly interested are Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Arizona and the Cubs.
Center fielder Marlon Byrd has been mentioned as a possibility for Houston.
The Astros are also believed to be in the mix for free agent outfielder Danny Bautista.
The Devil Rays continued talks with Bautista and top draft pick Jeff Niemann, seeking to close deals with both in the next few days. And they listened to the Orioles, who are expressing serious interest in slugger Aubrey Huff.
The Diamondbacks are awaiting the signature of left-handed pitcher Shawn Estes on a one-year deal worth more than $2 million.
Arbitration looms for three key Dodgers -- closer Eric Gagne, starter Brad Penny and shortstop Cesar Izturis. It is conceivable the Dodgers could avoid arbitration with any of them as they did with Milton Bradley, although it probably would take agreeing to multi-year contracts. The Dodgers are considering offering Gagne a two-year deal to buy out his last arbitration year in 2006. However, a two-year offer for anything less than $20 million to $22 million probably would be turned down.
The Twins have made their first offer to pitcher Johan Santana: $19.5 million for three years. It could take as much as $48 million over four years to sign the Cy Young Award winner to a multiyear deal.
Nationals GM Jim Bowden spoke twice yesterday with the agent for free agent pitcher Esteban Loaiza, and the team could know whether it will land the pitcher within the next few days. The Rangers are also involved in discussions about Loaiza.
The Phillies have long been interested in pitcher Javier Vazquez, whom the Diamondbacks could be moving.
Diamondbacks managing general partner Ken Kendrick ended speculation that Vazquez would seek a trade for family reasons. Kendrick met with Vazquez and his representatives for 5 1/2 hours and said the right-handed pitcher told him he wants to be a Diamondback. The Diamondbacks are still in the market for another starter, and reportedly are interested in Oakland's Barry Zito, if he's available, or Florida's A.J. Burnett.
The Marlins and left-handed reliever Matt Perisho finalized a contract that will guarantee him $475,000 next season.
A few weeks after they failed to land free agent lefty Steve Kline, the Jays signed free agent lefty Scott Schoeneweis to a two-year contract worth $5.25 million U.S. Shortly after the Schoeneweis signing, the Blue Jays reportedly finalized a deal that would send hard-throwing prospect Adam Peterson to the Diamondbacks for infielder Shea Hillenbrand.
Owner Steve Schott said a deal to purchase the A's could be consummated "some time before Opening Day. It depends on how quickly MLB wants to move it along." Lew Wolff will be interviewed by the MLB ownership committee as part of the process for a prospective owner to present his case and discuss his background. Wolff has examined the team's financial records, and Schott said he and partner Ken Hofmann both are willing to sell their full shares.
Richard Jefferson's All-Star caliber season came to an abrupt end when the Nets announced that the small forward will need surgery to repair a ruptured ligament in his left wrist.
The Nets have reached out to the Hornets to learn what it would take to send Jimmy Jackson to New Jersey... Meanwhile, the Nets are also waiting for Golden State to accept their offer of a trade exception and a second-round draft pick for Clifford Robinson.
The Nets also could try to deal for Lamond Murray, and may increase their pursuit of versatile big man Donyell Marshall.
When Isiah Thomas said he was keeping coach Lenny Wilkens around, maybe he meant until the end of the week. After the Knicks disgraced themselves last night by losing to New Orleans, the team with the worst record in the NBA, a team that can't score playing 5-on-0, Wilkens' seat now should be hotter than the baseball hot stove has been around here lately.
Wilkens acknowledged that the Knicks are considering signing a player to a 10-day contract with Tim Thomas and Jamal Crawford both sidelined. Kendall Gill, Tremaine Fowlkes, Smush Parker and Sam Mack are all available.
If the Nets Jason Kidd no longer is available (for the Timberwolves), maybe Baron Davis is. New Orleans might be willing to take some expiring salaries for the unhappy, but dynamic, point guard.
If the slumping Timberwolves make a trade, Latrell Sprewell is the most likely player to leave.
Was it really only a few weeks ago when Bulls followers were told Eddy Curry wanted out of here? When the former Thornwood High School star was almost reluctant to take the court lest he be booed in his hometown? "I want to spend the rest of my career in Chicago," Curry said earlier this week. "Definitely, there's no other place that I would rather be. Pax (GM John Paxson) knows how I feel. It's no secret. The Bulls gave me my first shot in the NBA, and this is where I want to spend the rest of my career." With Curry in a lead role, the Bulls in December had their first winning month (8-7) in 35 months. Since a dreadful 0-9 start, they have a 14-9 record and have vaulted into playoff contention.
The Timberwolves fall to 17-16 and Flip Saunders' job security comes into question. The Bulls win 10 of 13 to climb to 14-18 and Scott Skiles becomes an overnight genius.
Raptors executives will visit Alonzo Mourning this week in Miami, with a buyout likely to be discussed. Inside the Heat organization, there remains some opposition to adding Mourning, but injuries or other factors could change that.
A rumor saying that the Pistons are interested in Utah point guard Carlos Arroyo may be true, but the sides would likely be unable to work out a trade.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram quoted an executive of the CBA's Texas Tycoons as saying the Pistons are "looking at" former NBA center Oliver Miller and guard Jabari Johnson. "No, nothing to it," said John Hammond, the Pistons' vice president of basketball operations."
The NHL season is history, says the owner of the Carolina Hurricanes. "My gut feeling is that this season's gone," Peter Karmanos Jr. said Tuesday. And NHL hockey may be sidelined for longer than that. Karmanos believes the league will be out of action as long as it takes to get "cost certainty" -- the NHL's euphemism for a salary cap. "I know personally that I'd be willing to risk another season," he said from Detroit, where his company Compuware is based. "I'm enough of a hockey fan to realize that once we got it straightened out, the fans would come back. "But there's the risk they wouldn't. Even with that in mind, I feel very, very strongly that if we don't get it straightened out, we don't have to worry about the NHL existing anyways."
A source said last night he believed that Karmanos may have been instructed by the NHL to make the league's position clear. There's talk an unhappy group of owners is trying to put together a deal to save the season, but NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has no interest in striking a deal that doesn't have a salary cap.
The players didn't sound phased by Karmanos' remarks. "Hasn't Karmanos always been a vocal owner? He says stuff like that all the time," said defenseman Curtis Leschyshyn, who played for the Senators last season. "We know there's still time to make a deal. The season could still start on Feb. 1. I just don't think we're done."
Toronto defenseman Ken Klee said, "(Karmanos) is the same guy who has thrown the most negative comments out there to date, saying he is losing less money by not playing than if the season was going on. Well, if he can't hack it, maybe he should sell the team. "We turned back the clock, put salaries back a few years with our offer and gave them money to work with," he said. "It's up to them to balance their checkbooks. To say they can't control themselves is ludicrous. It's crazy for them to say, 'We're not responsible enough to balance our checkbooks.' "Thus far it has been a non-stop giving spree by the players, and it's not enough for them. It just boggles the mind that they are going to flush (the season) down the toilet."
On to the U.S. If replacement workers were to be used there, the NHL would have to go to the National Labor Relations Board and get an impasse declared. The basis of the league's case would have to be that it has negotiated in good faith, but the two sides are so intransigent that there is no hope of a settlement. But how can the NHL plead that? It hasn't negotiated at all. It has simply said again and again for three years that the union must accept its hard-cap demands. And with no impasse, there can be no replacement league. Those who say "the NFL did it," are right. But they forget -- or never knew -- that the NFL players didn't have a union at the time. It had been decertified. The NHL players have not the slightest intention of following that course of action.
The NHLPA might be in shambles if the NHL lockout goes into next season, Stars forward Mike Modano said. "It's going to be tough to come back in October and say that we're going to stay tough and stand firm. You're going to have guys who are saying, 'What are we doing?'" said Modano, who is losing $9-million by not playing this season. "You're going to have guys chomping at the bit to get a deal done." Locked out players currently receive $5,000 to $10,000 a month from the union. Modano believes that if the owners' stance is as strong as he believes, then the cancellation of another season is a strong possibility. "I think it has come to the point now where the owners are willing to sacrifice a year or two to fix the game for 10 or 15 years down the road," he said.
NHL players are being told to head to Europe if they want to play this season. While Bettman hasn't officially cancelled the season, player agent Allan Walsh's Octagon Hockey agency is telling its clients to sign immediately with European clubs. More than 300 NHL players are already playing in Europe because of the lockout, but many have been holding off heading overseas. "I don't feel the league is going to break the union," Walsh said. "People talk about the (proposed) WHA being competition for the NHL. They should be talking about the Russian Super League because that's going to be the NHL's biggest competitor. Those teams in Russia are offering big money."
Real Madrid have announced that Fernando Morientes is finally on his way to Liverpool to complete a £6.3m move. The 28-year-old was one of Europe's leading strikers last season and could make his first appearance for the Reds in this Saturday's clash with Manchester United.
Atletico Madrid have been fined 600 euros ($796.90) for the racist chanting aimed at Real Madrid full-back Roberto Carlos during Sunday's Madrid derby. The Spanish FA's Disciplinary Committee decided the incidents, which referee Alfonso Perez Burrull noted in his post-match report, were only a minor misdemeanor. It is thought the punishment was lenient because the club at least made an effort to stop their fans aiming insults at Roberto Carlos. Nonetheless, the fine is meager -- though UEFA say they will not put pressure on the Spanish FA to change their decision.
The Spanish FA has been fined 100,000 Swiss francs ($85,925.97) by FIFA for failing to prevent racist chanting during two friendlies against England in November. Large numbers of Spanish supporters aimed racist taunts at England's black players during the U-21 match in Alkala on 16 November, and then again during the senior match the following evening in Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu stadium.
David Beckham has revealed that he would be delighted to end his top-flight career at Real Madrid. The England captain, 29, last night denied reports that Real Madrid had spoken to him about an extension to his four-year deal, which runs out in 2007, but when asked if he would welcome a new contract he was unequivocal. "It has been in the papers and of course I would like to sign an extension," he said. "I'm happy with life off the pitch and I'm happy playing here. My team-mates are great to me and look after me. I'm at one of the biggest clubs in the world."
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