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Mo Says No to Red Sox

Baseball: Angels could benefit after Vaughn turns down five-year, $60-million offer from Boston.

November 12, 1998|MIKE DiGIOVANNA and ROSS NEWHAN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

The Angels have not measured Mo Vaughn for a new uniform yet, but the odds of the free-agent first baseman playing in Anaheim next season improved dramatically Wednesday night when Vaughn turned down the Boston Red Sox's five-year, $60-million offer.

"It's time for me to begin a new chapter, and that's what I've got to do," Vaughn told WBZ-TV in Boston. "It's time to move on. Best of luck to the Boston Red Sox."

While Red Sox fans could be devastated by the loss of a civic treasure--Vaughn, the 1995 American League most valuable player, was the heart and soul of the team and was highly active in community services--Angel fans, skeptical of their team's commitment to winning, could soon celebrate the signing of their first marquee free agent since Mark Langston in 1990.

The Angels stunned Vaughn Friday with a six-year, $72-million offer, and though Vaughn's agents expect more teams to make bids now that Boston has bowed out, the Angels are the only other team that has made an offer to this point and appear to be the favorite for Vaughn.

Still, Angel General Manager Bill Bavasi remained cautious about the team's chances of landing a player who would force first baseman Darin Erstad to move back to the outfield and the likely trade of center fielder Jim Edmonds.

"This is not to say it's going to happen for us or anyone else," Bavasi said at the general managers' meetings in Naples, Fla. "Everybody has a right to change their mind, including the Red Sox."

That doesn't seem likely, though, judging from the comments of Red Sox General Manager Dan Duquette and Tom Reich, Vaughn's agent, who met three times Wednesday in Naples.

"Mo rejected our offer, and it looks like he's going to play for someone else," Duquette said. "He's going to put his efforts somewhere else, and we are too. We're going to look at some other options."

Added Reich: "They made a last and final offer. It was submitted to Mo earlier [Wednesday] evening. He did not accept it. Duquette declared the negotiations over. . . .

"Mo has a lot of roots [in Boston] that have always mattered, but he recognizes that this is part of baseball, and it's time now for both parties to move on. It's certainly not what the plan was, but it's time."

Will Vaughn's next stop be Anaheim? Reich wouldn't say for sure.

"The Angels came out of the blocks and definitely got Mo's attention," Reich said. "They've made it clear that they have a lot of interest in Mo, and he doesn't take that for granted.

"However, there are a lot of people circling the wagons," Reich added, alluding to the possibility of more teams pursuing Vaughn.

While teams such as the Dodgers and Baltimore Orioles could join in the bidding for Vaughn, Boston will turn its attention toward free-agent outfielders Bernie Williams and Albert Belle, but that will hardly appease the Red Sox and their fans, who haven't forgiven the team for allowing ace Roger Clemens to leave two winters ago.

Vaughn's clubhouse presence in Boston was as towering as many of his home runs, and the 30-year-old New England native, who has a career .304 average with 230 home runs and 752 RBIs, was deemed essential to the Red Sox's World Series chances.

"You can't get rid of him--you can't lose a guy like that without it affecting the whole team," Boston shortstop Nomar Garciaparra said. "If Mo should leave, it's going to be hard to deal with. He was our leader on the field and off the field."

But Vaughn's relations with the Red Sox front office were much more contentious than those with his teammates and fans. After a few highly publicized scrapes with the law, Vaughn accused the team of having him followed for a period last season, and Vaughn rejected the team's four-year, $37.5-million offer at the All-Star break.

Days before the Angel offer, Vaughn said he would accept less money to sign with the Red Sox if he was given a five-year deal, but the Angel offer apparently changed that. It also appeared the Red Sox were not willing to increase their most recent offer to Vaughn or include a no-trade clause.

"There's different components of a deal--there's money, terms and structural issues," Reich said. "During the negotiations over the last year and a half, we just have never been able to reach a meeting of the mind on all of those issues. It wasn't a question of hostility, it was simply a question of the negotiating process."

Is there any chance of Vaughn returning to Boston?

"I never say never," Duquette told ESPN, "but we don't really have a feel for what the kid wants to sign."

Countered Vaughn: "There's a right way to do things. . . . Who knows if I would have accepted any contract [from the Red Sox]? But sometimes people don't see eye to eye."

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