NEW YORK -- Gary Sheffield left New York with what he
wanted: a $28 million contract extension through 2009 and a promise
that he wouldn't be playing first base.
Sheffield was traded from the Yankees to the Detroit Tigers on
Friday for three pitching prospects in the first major trade of the
offseason, a deal that brings him back to Tigers manager Jim
Leyland and team president Dave Dombrowski.
"I was ecstatic because I get reunited with the people that
I've always loved," Sheffield said. "They're business-minded.
They're smart people. They're respectful people. They treat you
like men. That's what you want to be around. To reunite with them
after 10 years is a blessing."
New York gets right-handers Humberto Sanchez, Kevin Whelan and
"I was trying to find something that would make the Yankee
family happy and consequently that would make the Sheff family
happy, so I think this worked in everybody's favor," New York
general manager Brian Cashman said. "I had a number of deals on
the table and this is the one I wanted."
In 1997, Sheffield won a World Series title for the Florida
Marlins, managed by Leyland under Dombrowski, who was the team's
"This is one of the ultimate bats in baseball and one of the
ultimate people in baseball," Leyland said. "I have the utmost
respect for him. I can't tell you how happy we are. It's almost
unbelievable. It's hard for me to believe that we landed
Detroit and New York reached a tentative agreement on the deal
Tuesday night, and the Tigers had a three-day window to agree to a
contract extension. Sheffield and the Tigers agreed Thursday to the
new contract, which includes some deferred money, and Sheffield
took a physical Friday.
"It's unfortunate from the sense that Gary's a good friend,"
Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said. "That's the part of the
business you never get used to."
Sheffield, who turns 38 on Nov. 18, has 455 homers in 19 seasons
but became superfluous in New York after the Yankees acquired
Bobby Abreu from Philadelphia in late July. Sheffield topped 34 homers
and 120 RBI in each of his first two seasons with the Yankees, but
missed most of 2006 with a wrist injury from an April collision
with Toronto's Shea Hillenbrand.
"I'm happy it didn't drag out," manager Joe Torre said Friday
night at a dinner for his foundation. "It just looked like it was
getting uncomfortable for both sides. At least Gary's going back to
the manager he won a World Series with and I know that Jimmy thinks
very highly of him."
When Sheffield returned in late September, the Yankees shifted
him to first base.
"I have no plans to play him at first base," Leyland said.
"It might get on his mind and affect his hitting."
Leyland plans to use Sheffield primarily as a designated hitter
as Detroit tries to repeat as AL champions and win the World Series
for the first time since 1984. Sheffield also will be a backup to
Magglio Ordonez in right and possibly to Craig Monroe in left.
"We have said all along that we wanted to add a big bat as one
of our goals in the offseason," Dombrowski said. "As things
turned out, we were able to do that in a very quick fashion."
Leyland said Sheffield would hit third, fourth or fifth.
"I made about 30 lineups out last night and I can assure you
his name was in every one of them," he said.
New York exercised Sheffield's $13 million option last weekend
to prevent him from becoming a free agent. Sheffield's first choice
was to stay with New York and he said "middle men" on the Yankees
blocked him from speaking with George Steinbrenner. Sheffield also
said that if the owner's health wasn't an issue, he was confident
he'd stay with the Yankees for 2007.
"The only thing I'm disappointed about is I didn't bring them a
world championship," Sheffield said. "That was my sole reason for
going there. I didn't go for the publicity of being a Yankee. I
went for the big stage to win a ring."
The 23-year-old Sanchez was a combined 10-6 with a 2.53 ERA and
129 strikeouts in 123 innings with Triple-A Toledo and Double-A
Erie this year. He is a hard thrower and was mentioned in trade
speculation last summer before hurting an elbow.
"We're happy we're adding three quality arms to our system,
hopefully we can use to out advantage and give us more depth and
flexibility," Cashman said. "Sanchez obviously has a lot of
potential. He has a lot of ability and we're planning on him going
to spring training and hopefully take a lot of steps forward. We
look at him as a long-term asset that hopefully we can cash in as
early as '07."
Whelan, 22, was 4-1 with a 2.67 ERA and 27 saves for Class A
Lakeland. Claggett, 22, was 7-2 with an 0.91 ERA and 14 saves for
Class A West Michigan.
"We gave up a lot," Dombrowski said. "I winced."
Earlier this week, Sheffield had said he would retire if the
Yankees sent him to a team he didn't want to be with.
"I've always said I want to go out on my terms and they allowed
me to do that, and I thank them for that," he said.