|Friday, November 15
Updated: November 16, 10:22 AM ET
Third team could push Hampton to accept trade
ESPN.com news services
Colorado's Hampton and Florida's Johnson would have to waive no-trade clauses. They have until midday Saturday to decide whether to do so, according to Scott Boras, Johnson's agent.
''It's still up in the air, as far as I know,'' Boras said Friday night. ''He and his wife are still deliberating the move. This is a big decision.''
Three club officials who attended the GM meetings told ESPN.com's Jayson Stark on Friday that if the Marlins acquire Hampton, they expect Florida to turn around and trade Hampton to another club.
These sources said that because the Marlins aren't one of Hampton's preferred destinations, Florida officials have spent the last two days trying to arrange a trade with a club Hampton would go to. It's believed they've talked to the Astros, Cardinals, Braves and Cubs.
Cubs general manager Jim Hendry was contacted Friday by the Marlins to see if he would consider a trade for Hampton if the pitcher approves the tentative deal between the Colorado Rockies and the Marlins. Hendry didn't say ''yes,'' but he didn't completely shut the door on the opportunity, either.
The Cubs are privately classifying their chances to wind up with Hampton as a long shot. But they expressed similar reservations last December about getting free-agent outfielder Moises Alou, and eventually made that happen.
But sources also say the Marlins have been running into the same kind of obstacles the Rockies have encountered in trying to trade Hampton -- who has six years and $84.5 million remaining on his contract (not counting another $19 million in deferred signing bonuses). A Newark Star Ledger report that Hampton would go to the Yankees was said by one source to be untrue.
There were growing signs that Johnson, the other player in the deal with a no-trade clause, was leaning toward approving the trade. Johnson has a $1-million relocation clause in his contract if he is traded in the next three years.
So that would leave Hampton as the man who holds the fate of this deal in his hands. His agent, Mark Rodgers, said Friday that Hampton wouldn't make his decision until Saturday.
"Even if he's made a decision (by Friday night), I'll ask him to sleep on it," Rodgers said. "We've got to make sure that whatever decision he makes, it's right."
Rodgers wouldn't comment on talk that Hampton could wind up being dealt to a third team if he approves this trade.
Another source said that if this deal falls through, the Rockies will abandon their attempts to trade Hampton, at least for now. The source said Hampton had been told by the Rockies that if he wants to start over somewhere else and not have to restructure his contract, this is his only opportunity to do that. All the other clubs interested in him reportedly want him to rework his deal or turn the last two years into option years instead of guarantees.
Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd would not speculate on whether the deal would go through, saying, "I'm in a holding pattern on that."
Florida general manager Larry Beinfest refused to comment on specifics but did say, "I'm hopeful that the work we did here can culminate in something happening."
"We'll see what happens," he said. "I'm optimistic about the work we did and the way that we moved through on a couple of different areas."
The tentative trade was first reported Thursday by the Rocky Mountain News, Palm Beach Post and South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
The 30-year-old left-hander was 7-15 with a 6.15 ERA this year -- the highest in the major leagues among pitchers who qualified for the ERA title.
He is 21-28 with a 5.75 ERA since leaving the New York Mets to sign a $121 million, eight-year contract with the Rockies in December 2000, the richest deal for a pitcher. Following a 9-2 start in 2001, he is 12-26 with a 6.62 ERA.
Johnson, a 31-year-old catcher, hit .217 this season with six homers and 36 RBIs in 244 at-bats.
Hampton is owed $84.5 million in salary through 2009, plus $19 million in deferred money from his $21 million signing bonus.
Johnson is due $25 million over the next three years -- plus $1 million extra in 2005 if he is traded.
Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.