NEW YORK (AP) -- Stay-Rod?
In a startling turn of events, Alex Rodriguez and his wife met with New York Yankees executives Hal and Hank Steinbrenner on Wednesday in Tampa, Fla., and the star third baseman told the team he wants to stay in pinstripes.
His longtime agent, Scott Boras, wasn't involved in the meeting Wednesday, but said he's trying to work out a deal with the Yankees. New York officials sounded confident the negotiations could lead to an agreement.
"The past is the past. I don't know what brought about him approaching us,'' Yankees senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner said in a telephone interview. "I guess you could say things didn't go the way before that he intended on and weren't handled properly or whatever.
"But the bottom line, the only thing that really matters, is he wants to stay a Yankee. And it could be very well that he's always wanted to stay a Yankee and we just didn't know it.''
Rodriguez, likely to win his third AL MVP award next week, had not made any public statements since becoming a free agent following the Yankees' first-round loss to Cleveland in the playoffs. After consulting with his wife and family, Rodriguez reached out to Hank and his brother, Hal, through a third party.
``It became clear to me that I needed to make an attempt to engage the Yankees regarding my future with the organization,'' Rodriguez said in a statement. ``Prior to entering into serious negotiations with other clubs, I wanted the opportunity to share my thoughts directly with Yankees' ownership. We know there are other opportunities for us, but Cynthia and I have a foundation with the club that has brought us comfort, stability and happiness.''
When first contacted, the Yankees wondered whether the message was serious. Before Rodriguez terminated his record $252 million, 10-year contract on Oct. 28 -- forfeiting $72 million over the final three seasons -- Boras told the Yankees they would have to make a $350 million offer just to get a meeting with the third baseman.
Boras spent time in Miami meeting with Rodriguez in recent days.
"Alex and Cynthia have visited with the Steinbrenners and Yankee officials, and following that meeting Alex has instructed me to discuss contract terms with Brian Cashman and Randy Levine,'' Boras said, referring to the general manager and the team president.
New York was notified of A-Rod's decision to opt out during Game 4 of the World Series, and the timing angered commissioner Bud Selig and his staff.
Hank Steinbrenner and Cashman said talks were over because the Yankees lost the $21.3 million subsidy the Texas Rangers agreed to at the time of the 2004 trade that sent A-Rod to New York.
But after A-Rod hit the open market, the Los Angeles Angels were the only team that expressed a public desire to explore signing him.
Ill will was plentiful.
New York let A-Rod know that giving up the $21 million was pretty much a precondition for any talks.
"I also understand that I had to respond to certain Yankees concerns, and I was receptive and understanding of that situation,'' Rodriguez said. "Cynthia and I have since spoken directly with the Steinbrenner family. During these healthy discussions, both sides were able to share honest feelings and hopes with one another, and we expect to continue this dialogue with the Yankees over the next few days.''
Said Steinbrenner: "He's willing to make certain sacrifices. It certainly appears that way.''
"The biggest thing with me, and it's no secret with all of us, is the money we would have had from Texas that we don't now,'' he went on. "But he's willing to do something about that, which shows his dedication. And also, the other thing was, me being convinced he really wanted to be a Yankee, and it kind of looks to me like he does.''
New York had begun initial explorations with the agent for Mike Lowell, who is a free agent, and had expressed interest in acquiring Florida's Miguel Cabrera, who is available on the trade market.
The Yankees had left the onus on A-Rod.
"Part of it is obviously him proving he really wants to be a Yankee, and I think he's doing that,'' Steinbrenner said.
One other team that might have been an option for Rodriguez was the Los Angeles Dodgers, owned by Frank and Jamie McCourt.
"I think definitely we would have been involved,'' new manager Joe Torre said Wednesday evening at a charity event in New York after learning about A-Rod's chat with the Yankees. "The McCourts are committed to helping this ballclub in any way they can to get them to where they want to be, win championships.''
Torre, who managed Rodriguez in New York the past four seasons, said the two haven't spoken since the end of the season.
"He left me a message and I left one for him. We never really did talk about anything. Again, once he became a free agent there are rules, too. I'm with another team and I had to be careful. So I really didn't reach out that much, just tried to keep track of him through other people,'' Torre said. "He seemed very comfortable (in New York), that's why I was surprised he opted out.''
Before Rodriguez did so, the Yankees were prepared to make an initial extension offer of four or five years with an average yearly salary of $25 million to $30 million. A logical endpoint for a deal could be to take the $72 million the Yankees owed, subtract the $21 million New York lost from Texas, add $10 million in escalators A-Rod would have earned in 2009 and 2010, and then add seven seasons at $30 million annually. That would total $271 million for the next 10 years.
Hank Steinbrenner said there was no time frame for the negotiations and that it was up to Rodriguez to decide whether he wanted Boras to participate in talks.
"It doesn't really matter,'' Steinbrenner said. "No matter who's in the room, I'm going to go to a certain point in negotiations and that's it.''
In July 1996, Rodriguez went against Boras' advice and agreed to a $10.6 million, four-year contract extension with Seattle through 2000. In December 2000, Boras negotiated the record contract for A-Rod with Texas.