Tejada has teams playing 'Let's Make a Deal'

December 31, 2005|By DAVE VAN DYCK

It was just a small wire service story, an early December offseason baseball dispatch from the Dominican Republic that hardly would catch the eyes of newspaper editors, but it sure opened the eyes of team executives, including those on both sides of Chicago.

Miguel Tejada, Baltimore's All-Star shortstop, was quoted as saying a "change of scenery" might be best for him. It took only a few hours before general managers were calling Baltimore with their plans to facilitate and accommodate Tejada, much to the shock of Orioles executives.

Who wanted Tejada?

"Who wouldn't?" one team executive said at the time.

Three weeks later, only a handful of clubs - the Cubs, White Sox and Red Sox most prominently - reportedly are left in what can be described best as a silent auction. No one really is talking for the record about how far trade talks have gone.

And although the Orioles claim "there is absolutely no deal we find acceptable to trade this very special player to another team," the rumors won't go away, perhaps because many teams want to add a "yet" onto the end of that statement.


Tejada reiterated his trade request Thursday night to the Baltimore Sun, saying he was more upset than ever at the Orioles' lack of offseason moves.

"I thought I (would) put pressure and we'll see," Tejada said. "What have they done? Nothing.

"Next year, I want to be somewhere where they want to win."

In baseball's Hot Stove League, any kind of smoke can be turned into fire. Here there are sparks.

The names mentioned in talks are astounding: Manny Ramirez, Mark Prior, first Jon Garland and then Jose Contreras.

Who is Miguel Tejada and just how good is he?

He is a high-average, big-power hitter who, at 29, already has won an MVP award (2002) and has signed a six-year, $72 million contract.

"Terrific, great player, a five-tool guy," one major league scout said, looking at his notes compiled over the years. "I have him listed as the No. 1 shortstop overall in baseball, ahead of (Derek) Jeter and (Rafael) Furcal.

"His offense separates him from the other guys. But he's pretty much the whole package. He has well above-average arm (strength) and range. He's a very average runner but he's an aggressive guy. The only minus would be that he's a free swinger, he doesn't take a lot of walks."

And yet who is complaining about a minor flaw from a middle-of-the-order middle infielder who hits above .300, is capable of more than 30 homers (he won the All-Star home run contest two years ago) and 100 RBI (he had 150 two years ago) and is consistently among league leaders in doubles?

He also hasn't missed a game in five years. Behind the statistics, he is a leader in the clubhouse both vocally and by example.

"It sounds like a cliche, but he's one of those guys who is all about winning," said John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle, who covered Tejada in Oakland and has written stories about him since. "He's the consummate team guy, really bummed after losses."

Tejada-"Miggie" to his friends-grew up professionally in the free-spirit Oakland clubhouses that included Jason Giambi, Eric Chavez and Barry Zito. Those were the easy days, with near-annual postseason appearances, that the amiable Tejada never can duplicate. Giambi left for the Yankees and Tejada departed soon after for Baltimore.

Of course, Giambi was involved in the BALCO steroids mess and Tejada became embroiled in controversy this past summer when teammate Rafael Palmeiro claimed a vitamin B-12 shot Tejada supplied made him test positive for steroids. Palmeiro now admits that is impossible to prove. Tejada also had a falling out with fellow Dominican Sammy Sosa during the season.

Yet what led to Tejada's trade "request" was an Orioles offseason that failed to land a big-name starting pitcher and almost guaranteed they couldn't be competitive with the Yankees, Red Sox and Blue Jays in the AL East. Ironically, if Tejada is traded, it might bring at least one starting pitcher.

For those apparently still left trying to find some sort of combination to please the Orioles, neither the names nor the $54 million still left on his contract - including next season's $12 million - has scared them away. In fact, that's a lesser salary than the Dodgers gave Furcal when they outbid the Cubs and Braves for the shortstop.

Which team, if any, has the inside track on Tejada and what are they offering? Let's take a look:

Red Sox: It seems Boston won't give up trying to find a way to make it happen, the latest gossip involving the disgruntled Ramirez and former Cubs starter Matt Clement. But the Boston Globe reports the hang-ups are evening out the money and getting Baltimore to deal Tejada within the AL East.

Another rumor from a Web site in New York talked of a four-way deal involving the Red Sox, Mets and Devil Rays, in which Tejada winds up in Boston and Ramirez in Baltimore.

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