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Archive for Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Gonzalez expected to reject deal

Rangers’ slugger has 72 hours to make decision on trade to Expos

June 25, 2003

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— The Montreal Expos reached an agreement Tuesday to acquire two-time AL MVP Juan Gonzalez from Texas -- but his attorney said the Rangers' slugger "in all likelihood" would reject the trade.

Montreal general manager Omar Minaya, who has a long history with Gonzalez, was to meet with the Rangers' right fielder today in Texas.

Gonzalez has 72 hours to exercise his no-trade clause. His window of decision begins at 9 a.m. CDT today.

The 33-year-old outfielder did not play Tuesday night in Texas' 7-6 win at home over Oakland. He declined comment before the game.

"After some thought and reflection, Juan is going to stand by his no-trade clause and reject the trade to Montreal -- in all likelihood," attorney Jeff Moorad said at The Ballpark in Arlington.

Moorad added that when Gonzalez signed a two-year contract with the Rangers before the 2002 season, he took less money "because he and his family felt comfortable in Texas."

Minaya could find ways to persuade Gonzalez to take the deal -- perhaps cash for accepting or maybe an adjusted contract.

The last-place Rangers were expected to receive prospects, possibly three of them, if Gonzalez goes to Montreal.

"Shame on us if we don't at least attempt to make the deal," said Rangers general manager John Hart, who watched Double-A Frisco play at Round Rock, Texas. "The position the Rangers are in right now, it's time for the team to get younger and obviously some of the veterans aren't going to fit."

"We feel (the Expos) are a team that is in contention and that can help Gonzalez reach some of his goals," he said. "He may or may not accept that, but he's a good fit with Montreal. Of course, they play a lot of games in Puerto Rico and that would be a good place for him to be."

The Expos are playing 22 games this season in Puerto Rico, the slugger's homeland. Earlier this month, fans in San Juan chanted his nickname -- "Igor" -- when he homered for the Rangers against the Expos.

The Expos still have six games in San Juan this season, and their future beyond this year is uncertain. There's been speculation Montreal might play half its home games in Puerto Rico next year.

Gonzalez, who missed seven of 11 games before Sunday because of a tender right elbow and then a tight left groin, is hitting .286 with 18 homers and 50 RBIs.

Gonzalez has never played for an NL team. The Expos also play on artificial turf, and that could factor against Gonzalez, who has a history of injuries.

"We could have gone under the radar, but we wanted to be up front and give Juan the time he's earned by his contract situation," Texas manager Buck Showalter said. "We could have used him tonight, but we won't."

The surprising Expos are in thick of the NL wild-card chase. Their 6-4 victory Tuesday over Pittsburgh made them 43-34, leaving them among several clubs in the race for a postseason spot.

Minaya is credited with helping develop Gonzalez for the Rangers in the mid-1980s, when he coached the Gulf Coast Rangers for three years.

And, Minaya is no stranger to big deals.

With Montreal contending last summer, he acquired Cliff Floyd from Florida and Bartolo Colon from Cleveland. When the Expos faded, he dealt Floyd to Boston two weeks later; Colon was traded in the offseason.

Rangers first baseman Rafael Palmeiro spoke to Gonzalez, but said his teammate and close friend didn't indicate what he would do.

"He said he wants to look at all of his options. He's not going to jump to any conclusions," Palmeiro said.

The Rangers ended an eight-game losing streak Tuesday night. They began the day 27-47 and 22 games behind AL West-leading Seattle.

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