Union approves Sosa trade

Updated: January 31, 2005, 11:11 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The trade that would send Sammy Sosa from the Chicago Cubs to the Baltimore Orioles took a step forward Monday when the players' association approved a key change to his contract that is required to complete the deal.

Chicago would receive Jerry Hairston Jr. and a pair of minor leaguers, second baseman Mike Fontenot and right-handed pitcher Dave Crouthers, in exchange for Sosa and $12 million. The trade is likely to be finalized between Wednesday afternoon and Friday.

Sosa's contract currently contains a provision that calls for the team's $18 million option for 2006 to become guaranteed if he is traded and for a $19 million team option for 2007 to be added, one that would carry a $4.5 million buyout. As part of the trade, Sosa will sign an addendum to his contract voiding that provision.

Commissioner Bud Selig also must approve the trade because more than $1 million will change hands in the swap, which the teams put in motion Friday night. The teams started the process of submitting documents outlining the trade to the commissioner's office, but all the necessary paperwork had not been sent in as of Monday night.

To replace some of Sosa's power, the Cubs neared an agreement with free-agent outfielder Jeromy Burnitz on a one-year contract with a mutual option for 2006. That deal wouldn't be finalized until the Sosa trade is completed.

Baltimore would pay just $5 million of Sosa's $17 million salary this year, with the Cubs paying $12 million. The Orioles would assume responsibility for the 2006 option, which Baltimore would be able to buy out for $4.5 million.

In addition, Chicago would remain responsible for the $3.5 million severance pay called for in Sosa's contract, which must be given to the seven-time All-Star within 30 days after the trade is finalized. The Cubs would wind up paying $62.5 million of the $72 million Sosa was guaranteed in the four-year deal, with the Orioles paying $9.5 million.

Hairston took his physical Monday in the Phoenix area. Sosa is to take his physical Wednesday or Thursday.

The Cubs and Orioles did not include a 72-hour window for a contract extension. The 36-year-old outfielder has agreed to waive his right to block the trade and will go to the Orioles without an extension.

After the deal is done, Baltimore might try to negotiate a new contract with Sosa.

Selig has twice approved larger salary transfers. Texas agreed last February to send the Yankees $67 million over seven seasons in the trade that sent Alex Rodriguez to New York for Alfonso Soriano.

In November 2002, Selig approved the Mike Hampton, three-team trade, which involved $30 million -- Colorado agreed to send Florida $6.5 million over three years, and the Marlins agreed to send that money plus an additional $23.5 million over three years to Atlanta, which received the pitcher.

The money in the Sosa trade tops the other two big deals Selig approved this winter: The Yankees are paying Arizona $9 million in the trade that brought Randy Johnson to New York and Los Angeles is paying $10 million in the deal that sent Shawn Green to the Diamondbacks.

Sosa hit .253 last year, his lowest average since 1997, and had 35 homers and 80 RBIss in 126 games. His 574 homers rank seventh on the career list.

While Cubs fans supported him after he used a corked bat in 2003, he was booed last year, when he had a back injury. Then he left the ballpark during the final regular-season game last October after the Cubs had blown a wild-card lead over the final week, and criticized manager Dusty Baker.

Sosa's first game back in Chicago with the Orioles would be on May 12, the start of a four-game series against the White Sox.

Searching for a replacement for Sosa's offense, Cubs general manager Jim Hendry has talked with Scott Boras, the agent for former White Sox outfielder Magglio Ordonez, and Howard Simon, the agent for Burnitz.

Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said Monday that while Toronto likes Ordonez, "the price is too steep."

"He's looking at close to $50-or-$60 million. We'll take a pass," Ricciardi said. "We like the player, but there's an uncertainty with his leg. We're not prepared to commit to a long-term deal."

Detroit and Ordonez exchanged proposals last week, and Texas has expressed interest.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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