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Hicks, Henry to speak

Regarding A-Rod, Rangers owner adamant in position

The relative quiet on Yawkey Way yesterday, a dramatic contrast to the sharp rhetoric and ruffled feelings of the previous few days, is not expected to last.

While Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks insisted yesterday that he will not yield in his insistence that the Red Sox have to sweeten the pot financially before he is willing to swap shortstop Alex Rodriguez to Boston for outfielder Manny Ramirez, a deal that would trigger the departure of Sox fixture Nomar Garciaparra, Sox owner John W. Henry returned from his trip to the Dominican Republic and kept his own counsel.

Hicks acknowledged that he expects to speak with Henry in the next couple of days, and with baseball's annual winter meetings scheduled to start tomorrow in New Orleans, it is certainly within the realm of possibility that the two sides are waiting for a national stage of sufficient magnitude before announcing that a deal has been struck. More likely, Hicks's public intransigence is just hard-line negotiations, the kind he did not engage in three years ago at the winter meetings in Nashville, when he signed then-free agent Rodriguez to a 10-year, $252 million deal, when he ended up essentially bidding against himself and, according to numerous baseball executives, paid Rodriguez nearly $100 million more than any other team was willing to give him.

That was the winter of 2000, the season that Henry so pointedly mocked when he accused Garciaparra's agent, Arn Tellem, of overplaying his hand by rejecting the Sox offer this past spring of a four-year deal worth $15 million a year. That offer has since shrunk to $12 million a year, which would seem to be a clear indication the Sox are willing to play hardball with Garciaparra because in Rodriguez they have a spectacular alternative to the most popular Sox player in a generation, while also having the chance to divest themselves of Ramirez's bloated contract.

The unknown in all these machinations is this: If the deal for Rodriguez should fall through, how will the strained relations between Garciaparra and the ball club be repaired after the harsh volley of accusations that took place between Henry and Tellem this week, an exchange instigated when Tellem accused the Sox of being "disingenuous" in their talks with Garciaparra, adding that the pursuit of A-Rod was a "slap in the face" to Garciaparra.

Henry fired back by saying Tellem was guilty of the "height of hypocrisy." And while Tellem spoke with Sox officials later Tuesday and issued a three-sentence statement conciliatory in nature, it remains to be seen how the Sox can soothe the feelings of a star player who turned down the offer in March, only to see that offer reduced dramatically by December. Can the Sox afford to have an unhappy star player in his walk year -- and possibly two, if Pedro Martinez is dissatisfied with whatever overtures the Sox make about giving him another extension?

That is a question the Sox hope they don't have to answer. Landing A-Rod would spare them that dilemma.

Industry sources said yesterday there was little movement on the Garciaparra trade front, which stands to reason since the Sox cannot agree to a deal for their incumbent shortstop unless they close the deal for A-Rod, which has progressed on another front, with Rodriguez and his agent, Scott Boras, discussing with union executives some possible restructuring of his deal that would make his contract more palatable to the Sox.

But while Henry had the blessing of baseball commissioner Bud Selig to contact Rodriguez and Boras, the Sox and Rangers both have to sign off on a deal in which all parties have motivation to make: The Rangers, because they are hamstrung by A-Rod's contract; Rodriguez, because he is frustrated by three straight last-place finishes by the Rangers and the fact that Texas appears committed to rebuilding mode; the Red Sox, for the opportunity to acquire arguably the best player in the game for what in the short term, at least, is reasonably comparable to what they would have to pay Ramirez.

"The ball is in their court," Hicks told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram yesterday. "I've said all along that I don't think anything is going to happen. We're going to have further discussions but they've got to decide what they want to do and how badly they want to do it."

The informal consensus throughout the industry, however, is that the sides will ultimately find common ground to make this deal happen, which then leads to a discussion of what the Sox would do with Garciaparra. The Dodgers remain a leading suitor, with lefthander Odalis Perez the centerpiece of a package that is expected to contain at least one or two top prospects. The Angels, who Tuesday signed free agent pitcher Bartolo Colon, have had conversations with the Sox, but Boston has some reservations about lefthander Jarrod Washburn, who, according to a major league executive with another club, was shopped around at the July trading deadline.

"Why would you be willing to trade a young lefthander unless you had questions about (a) his talent, or (b) his durability?" the executive asked.

A report out of Washington said the Orioles had called about Garciaparra, but they are also involved in the bidding for Miguel Tejada, the free agent shortstop who is younger than Garciaparra and could come at a lower price. The Seattle Mariners, who reportedly made a three-year, $25 million offer to Tejada, reportedly have ruled out making a run at Garciaparra as well. But the Sox expect other clubs will become involved once it becomes clear Boston will be moving Garciaparra.

The Sox are also cautiously awaiting word from free agent closer Keith Foulke, who according to one industry source is expected to decide between the Sox and his current team, the Oakland A's, in the next couple of days. Foulke has indicated that if the smaller-market A's make an offer reasonably close to what the Sox are offering, he is likely to stay. The A's are willing to give Foulke a fourth year; the Sox to date have held to a three-year deal with a greater average annual value.

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