NY Times wrote: A Big Deal? The Yankees Still Aren't There Yet
By RAFAEL HERMOSO
Published: December 3, 2003
he Yankees remained active yesterday, continuing efforts to collect arms for what will be a very expensive bullpen and making other minor moves. But they have yet to make a big deal, certainly not one that would rival Boston's acquisition of Curt Schilling, and the one headline-generating move that seemed closest to completion has encountered at least a little bit of turbulence.
Issues have developed in the negotiations between the free-agent outfielder Gary Sheffield and the Yankees, one baseball official with knowledge of the talks said yesterday, and a deal that was essentially a certainty only days ago now has to clear a few hurdles.
George Steinbrenner, the Yankees' principal owner, is handling the negotiations and,< problem on Monday, he met at the team's Tampa complex with the slugging Sheffield and his agent, Rufus Williams. On Tuesday, the three met again at the complex, according to The Associated Press.
The same baseball official said that after Monday's meeting, the two sides remained significantly apart over the length of a contract and the money. While it had been believed that Sheffield, 35, and the Yankees would agree on a three-year deal, he has been seeking more — a guarantee that would cover at least a fourth year and possibly a fifth one, too. The Yankees proposed adding an option year as a compromise but, at least initially, that was not enough to secure a deal.
Sheffield could merely be playing hard to get, knowing that Steinbrenner is perhaps desperate to make a major move quickly to offset the publicity the Red Sox generated in obtaining Schilling. And the Yankees would be better served by signing Sheffield after Sunday, the deadline for his previous team, the Atlanta Braves, to offer him salary arbitration. Any other team that signs Sheffield before then, or after if he is offered arbitration, would surrender a first-round draft pick as compensation. If the Braves do not offer arbitration, the Yankees can sign him without losing a draft pick.
On the other hand, it is not clear how much leverage Sheffield has. Atlanta is the only other team believed to have made him an offer.
Looks like the two sides are further apart than what they want to admit...