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Rodriguez deal is official; focus shifts to Garciaparra

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- For Red Sox fans, the most important question in the aftermath of the trade that made Alex Rodriguez a Yankee is this: How will the deal affect their negotiations with Nomar Garciaparra, who is entering the final year of his contract?

Garciaparra's agent, Arn Tellem, said yesterday he is bound to an agreement he made with the Sox not to discuss details of their negotiations, but did say he has had a number of conversations with the team in the last month. The Rodriguez trade to the Yankees, which officially was approved by commissioner Bud Selig yesterday, obviously removed some uncertainty for Garciaparra, whose future with the Sox is no longer tied to the possibility that A-Rod would wind up in a Boston uniform.

"We've had some dialogue," said Tellem. "I'm not going to get into any discussions of where we are or where they are. Hopefully at some point I'll feel more comfortable about saying something, and we're hopeful that at some point we'll be able to make a deal."

There is a presumption that with Rodriguez out of the picture, Garciaparra, whose popularity has been unmatched among Red Sox since he became a regular in 1997, now will have the upper hand in negotiations. The Red Sox can't reasonably expect to find another shortstop approaching Garciaparra's stature in the near future, especially since Miguel Tejada, the 2002 American League MVP, signed a six-year, $72 million deal with the Baltimore Orioles this winter.

"As for impacting negotiations, I don't view it that way," Tellem said. "I think the one thing it does is eliminate the cloud hanging over us that the A-Rod trade could resurrect itself at some point."

Last March, the Red Sox made a significant bid to sign Garciaparra to a long-term extension, but he rejected the club's offer of four years at $15 million a year. Tellem, according to Sox sources, had countered with a four-year proposal at $17 million a year. After the season, general manager Theo Epstein informed Tellem that the club had reduced its offer to four years at $12 million per annum, enraging the agent.

Believing they might not be able to get a deal done with Garciaparra, and looking for a way to get out from under the five years and $100 million left on Manny Ramirez's contract, the Sox last October entered negotiations with the Texas Rangers, but more than two months of talks -- which included Rodriguez, Selig, and the players' union -- could not produce an agreement.

After the union rejected the Sox' proposed restructuring of Rodriguez's contract, which would have reduced its value by $28 million, the sides never really came close to making a deal. The Yankees, however, struck quickly after third baseman Aaron Boone suffered a season-ending knee injury playing basketball last month, coming to terms with the Rangers in less than a week's time.

Texas will pay $67 million of the $179 million left on Rodriguez's $252 million, 10-year contract, the most cash included in a trade in major league history. The Rangers get All-Star second baseman Alfonso Soriano and a player to be named -- but they also will pay Rodriguez through 2025.

"I am very concerned about the large amount of cash consideration involved in the transaction, and the length of time over which the cash is being paid," Selig said.

"I want to make it abundantly clear to all clubs that I will not allow cash transfers of this magnitude to become the norm. However, given the unique circumstances, including the size, length and complexity of Mr. Rodriguez's contract and the quality of the talent moving in both directions, I have decided to approve the transaction."

Rodriguez will move from shortstop, a position at which he's a seven-time All-Star, to third base, where he will replace Boone. The Yankees will keep captain Derek Jeter at shortstop.

"I don't think he ever thought about playing another position until the concept came up," Rodriguez's agent, Scott Boras, said. "He decided it didn't make a difference -- shortstop, third base, center field. He wanted the opportunity to play on a competitive team."

The Rangers will wind up paying $140 million for three seasons with Rodriguez, an average of $46.7 million annually for three last-place finishes in the AL West. The Yankees will owe him $112 million over seven years.

Boras said the possibility of a trade first came up last Monday while he was talking to the Yankees about another player. Boras then called Rodriguez.

"I said, `There may be an opportunity. We have to talk about your goals, about winning,' " Boras recalled telling his client.

"He called me back Tuesday and discussed it further and said, `Why don't you call [Rangers owner] Tom Hicks and let him know we're ready to do that?' " Boras said.

Trade talks began the following day, and the sides reached the agreement Sunday.

Though the deal threatens to keep the balance of power in the AL East in New York's favor, count Kevin Millar among the Red Sox counseling fans to keep the faith.

"Everybody seems to get down about it, but this is what makes the rivalry so special and so much fun," Millar said. "We're as strong and scrappy a team as there is in the major leagues, and that's what you're looking for, so we're staying positive."

Noting that he is eager to start the season, Millar is one of a number of Sox veterans who plan to arrive in Fort Myers early for spring training.

"It's a huge development that caught a lot of people off guard," he said. "But what we can't forget is how exciting and how great our own team is going into camp. You can't worry about what other teams are doing. We have 95 percent of our team back from last year and we've added a Gold Glove second baseman [Pokey Reese], Curt Schilling, and Keith Foulke. If you're a fan, I don't think it can get more exciting."

Bob Hohler of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Material from the Associated Press also was used.

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