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Friday, November 22
Williams says no; D-Backs can't strike deal with Walker news services

PHOENIX -- The tentative trade to send Larry Walker from the Colorado Rockies to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Matt Williams and three others fell through Friday.

Matt Williams

Larry Walker

The teams ceased talks after Williams vetoed the trade to remain with his family and the Diamondbacks failed to reach a financial agreement with Walker.

''Being there for my kids is everything in my life,'' Williams said. ''This responsibility outweighs anything in my baseball career. I must and will be with my kids.''

Walker and Williams had to approve the deal because both have no-trade clauses.

Williams turned down the trade because he has full custody of his three children, who are 10, 11 and 12.

''I'm a dad first and a baseball player second, and I can only hope that the public can empathize with my decision,'' he said. ''Baseball is what I do, not who I am.''

Walker balked at the Diamondbacks' request that he defer a portion of the $25 million he is due for 2004 and 2005. ESPN's Peter Gammons reported that the Diamondbacks wanted to, in effect, double the amount of money in his contract that is deferred.

''We never got past that issue. That was the only issue we discussed,'' said Walker's agent, Pat Rooney. ''Larry just didn't want to alter his contract.''

The trade also would have sent outfielder David Dellucci, first baseman Erubiel Durazo and reliever Bret Prinz to the Rockies.

The failure of this deal also killed a second deal. According to Gammons, Colorado would have traded Durazo to the A's as part of a three-team deal. The Rockies would have received second baseman Orlando Hudson from the Blue Jays and Oakland would have sent Double-A players Jason Arnold, a pitcher, and John-Ford Griffin, an outfielder, to Toronto.

''I see no reason for us to continue to pursue this proposed deal with Colorado since we were unable to reach an accord with Larry Walker and his representative,'' Diamondbacks general manager Joe Garagiola Jr.

Colorado is trying to rid itself of expensive, long-term commitments. Walker has three years and $38.5 million remaining on his contract. Williams has one year and $10 million left on his deal with the Diamondbacks, with half of the money deferred.

The Rockies already traded Mike Hampton and his big contract to Florida, which then dealt the left-hander to Atlanta. Colorado also has been seeking to trade left-hander Denny Neagle.

"Although it would be very difficult to trade a player like Larry Walker who has meant so much to our franchise, we believe that this proposed trade would have added depth and flexibility to our roster,'' Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd said.

Williams engineered a trade from Cleveland to the expansion Diamondbacks late in 1997 to be close to his children and later gained full custody. He insisted on the no-trade clause in his Arizona contract because he didn't want to be separated from his family. They live in nearby Scottsdale.

The Rockies sent their top officials to Arizona to make a pitch to Williams, who put off a final decision until Friday.

Diamondbacks owner Jerry Colangelo praised Williams' professionalism in the situation.

''Matt has always been a man of integrity, and I appreciate that he was willing to discuss this potential transaction,'' Colangelo said.

Walker appeared to be acceptable to a trade to the Diamondbacks because he considers them a contender, but didn't want to defer more salary. The seven-time Gold Glove winner has deferred $6 million of his $12.5 million on his contract for next season.

"I have spoken to Larry several times in the last few days and I respect his decision,'' Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said.

Walker, who has averaged 94 RBIs, 30 home runs and a .340 batting average in his seven seasons with Colorado. He has been sidelined frequently by injuries, however, and turns 36 on Dec. 1.

Williams, who turns 37 on Nov. 28, has missed 289 games the past three seasons with various injuries. His last healthy season was 1999, when he hit .303 with 35 home runs and a career-high 142 RBI. He intends to fight to keep his starting job as he enters his 15th major league season.

''I anticipate going to spring training and fighting for the third base job,'' Williams said. ''I will be available to play every inning of every game in spring training to prove that I am able to play and I want that job every badly.''

Williams said he hopes to play beyond next season, and knows he might have to go through the same anguishing decision if he becomes a free agent. But he will do so on his own, not with two other teams and a no-trade clause involved.

''At that point it will be my decision and mine only,'' he said.

While he said he harbors no hard feelings toward the Diamondbacks, he said he wishes the team had contacted him before he heard about the proposed trade in the media.

Arizona will turn elsewhere in its attempts to bolster its roster. Durazo remains on the trading block, and the Diamondbacks may intensify their efforts to re-sign center fielder Steve Finley. Those attempts probably would have been abandoned had Walker come to Arizona.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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