The Boston Red Sox may be about to get hammered by George Steinbrenner's wallet again.
Multiple baseball sources said that Steinbrenner's New York Yankees continued to close in Saturday on the acquisition of Alex Rodriguez.
The blockbuster trade that would send Alfonso Soriano and a player to be determined to the Texas Rangers could be announced as soon as today.
The deal requires approval of the commissioner's office and players' union due to the money involved and the restructuring of the deferred portion of A-Rod's contract, but that is not expected to be a problem, the sources said.
"I would be very surprised if this didn't get done," a person involved in the process said.
The deal, if consummated, would push the Yankee payroll to more than $190 million and serve as a potentially frustrating development for the American League East rival Red Sox, who aggressively pursued Rodriguez earlier in the off-season but broke off negotiations when they were unable to work out a satisfactory restructuring of the $179 million remaining on the 10-year, $252-million contract Rodriguez signed with the Rangers in December 2000.
Reached by phone, Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein said it would not be appropriate to comment on a trade that had not been completed and involved two other teams.
However, a Boston official who demanded anonymity said he was not surprised that the Rangers would be still looking to trade Rodriguez even though they had recently appointed him captain.
"Every year you have to figure that the Yankees are going to acquire one or two of the best players in the market," the official said.
"This just comes a little later in the winter and doesn't involve a free agent signing but a team [Texas] looking to dump salary.
"At this point it's pretty logical. You have the Yankees with unlimited resources and a great player with a bad contract.
"We still like our team, and it would just make it that much sweeter when we beat them."
Rodriguez, according to the sources, has agreed to waive his no-trade clause and move to third base, filling the hole created when Aaron Boone was lost for the season because of a knee injury suffered while playing basketball, and allowing Derek Jeter to remain at shortstop.
The Yankees, the sources said, are not requesting that Rodriguez restructure the remaining $179 million, but the Rangers will carry $67 million of it -- $40 million in salary over seven years and the restructured deferred portion, totaling about $27 million with interest.
While speaking cautiously and saying that it was still premature to suggest the trade had been finalized, Texas General Manager John Hart said, "It's all about flexibility. We're trading the best player in the game and we're getting tremendous financial flexibility."
The Yankees will pay Rodriguez about $16 million a year. The Rangers, while carrying the $67 million, will still save close to $100 million based on the $112 million the Yankees are picking up and the fact that Soriano, who will receive $5.4 million this year, has no leverage other than salary arbitration until after the 2006 season, when he can become a free agent.
According to sources, the trade evolved through Hicks' ongoing economic problems with his other businesses, the Yankees' search for a third baseman to replace Boone and negotiations between the Yankees and agent Scott Boras, who represents Rodriguez, that involved Travis Lee, another Boras client.
The Lee talks ultimately morphed into Rodriguez, who agreed to switch positions and join a team with a more realistic chance to win when convinced by Boras that Hicks would be unable to commit the financial resources to turn the Rangers around quickly, the sources said.
Boras refused to comment, and Yankee General Manager Brian Cashman said he could talk only in generalities.
"It's my job to float ideas, what you can call weather balloons," Cashman said. "Most of them simply deflate and fall to the ground. Now and then one will stay up."
Rodriguez, who hit 47 home runs, drove in 118 runs and won the American League's most valuable player award last year, figures to hit in the middle of a lineup enhanced previously by the signing of Gary Sheffield. In addition, with Rodriguez and Jeter, the Yankees would have two players on the left side of the infield who are possibly headed to the Hall of Fame.
Although the loss of Soriano, who slugged 38 homers, drove in 91 runs and stole 35 bases, would create a significant void at second base, the Yankees, according to the sources, believe that would be an easier position to fill with a spring trade than the power position that is third base.
The Yankees, the sources said, also continued to be disappointed by Soriano's lack of plate discipline. He struck out 130 times, had only a .338 on-base percentage and made 19 errors in the field.