New York Alex Rodriguez was just a day or two away from joining the New York Yankees in a stunning trade that surely will rank as one of the biggest in baseball history.
The American League champions and the Texas Rangers agreed Saturday to the outline of a deal that would send A-Rod to the Bronx for second baseman Alfonso Soriano and a player to be named, three high-ranking baseball officials said.
The talks began Wednesday night, and the sides moved to the brink of a final agreement Saturday, the officials told the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.
The sides need to finalize the amount of money Texas will pay New York, and complete an agreement with Rodriguez, regarded as baseball's top player, on a restructuring of his contract that was described as modest.
Several of those involved said the trade likely was to be finalized today or Monday. Approval of both the commissioner's office and the players' association is necessary.
As part of the trade, Texas would pay about $67 million of the $179 million in salary that Rodriguez is owed over the final seven years of his contract. That leaves the Yankees to pay an average of approximately $16 million per season.
In addition to the $112 million the Rangers would clear off their books, Texas estimated it would save more than $13 million in interest for salaries that are to be deferred.
"It's about flexibility," general manager John Hart said. "We're trading the best player in the game and we're getting tremendous financial flexibility."
Rodriguez has a no-trade clause but has said he would be amenable to a deal to the Yankees, all the officials said. Rodriguez would be moved from shortstop to third base by New York, filling the hole created when Aaron Boone hurt his knee Jan. 16 in a pickup basketball game, an injury that will require surgery. Derek Jeter, the Yankees' captain, would remain at shortstop.
Hart confirmed negotiations were ongoing, but said it was premature to call it a done deal.
"We're in a very sensitive stage right now," he said. "A deal of this magnitude, with all the moving parts, it takes time."
Hart, though, is excited about what he called a "potential win-win-win situation for the Rangers, the Yankees and Alex Rodriguez." He emphasized that Texas would benefit from greater financial flexibility, while adding a quality player.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was tightlipped.
"Without going into the specifics, I can acknowledge trade discussions are taking place with the Texas Rangers," he said. "In fairness to all parties involved, I cannot comment further at this time."
The deal would require approval of the commissioner's office because of the money changing teams, and of the union because the deferred money in Rodriguez's contract would be restructured.
"I can't comment on the situation," said Rodriguez's agent, Scott Boras.
The talks were first reported Saturday by The New York Post and Newsday.
Boston, the Yankees' perennial rival, nearly acquired Rodriguez in December, but a proposed deal that would have sent outfielder Manny Ramirez to the Rangers fell through because the players' association blocked Boston's attempt to restructure Rodriguez's record $252 million, 10-year contract. The union said the proposal by the Red Sox would have lowered the deal's value by $30 million to $32 million.
Soriano, 26, will make $5.4 million this year and has two more years of salary arbitration eligibility remaining. The two-time All-Star can become a free agent after the 2006 season.
New York's payroll currently is at $170.3 million, not including left-hander Gabe White, who remains in arbitration.