Tellem says team should 'Let it go'

He disputes team's account of events

By Gordon Edes
Globe Staff / August 4, 2004

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Like Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein, Arn Tellem, the agent for shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, expressed a weariness with the rehashing of what transpired in the months leading to Garciaparra's trade last Saturday to the Chicago Cubs.

"I believe it's in the Red Sox' best interests to let all this go," he said when reached late last night at home in southern California. "Just let it go. They traded Nomar, and it doesn't serve any purpose for them or their fans to continue to dwell on what happened in the past."

But after being informed of John W. Henry's remarks last night regarding failed negotiations between the sides -- most notably, Henry's contention that Tellem told Sox general manager Theo Epstein he had to talk Garciaparra out of demanding a trade -- Tellem felt compelled to respond.

"I categorically deny that," Tellem said of Henry's claim that six days before Garciaparra was traded, the agent told Epstein he had to dissuade Garciaparra from making the trade demand. "I never had to talk Nomar out of asking to be traded. That's absolutely false."

Tellem said he expected that at a meeting July 24 at Fenway Park between the agent, Garciaparra, Henry, Sox CEO Larry Lucchino and Epstein, that the Sox GM would assure Garciaparra he would not be dealt. "Theo led me to believe that," Tellem said, "but it didn't happen."

Tellem confirmed Henry's assertion that last December, when it appeared that the Red Sox were proceeding with their trade for Alex Rodriguez, that he asked that Garciaparra be traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Instead, Epstein struck a deal that would have sent Garciaparra to the Chicago White Sox for outfielder Magglio Ordonez, contingent on the A-Rod deal. There were subsequent discussions between the White Sox and Dodgers about Garciaparra, but indications at that time were that the White Sox were planning to hold onto Garciaparra.

But Tellem disputed Henry's version of what took place when the club resumed contract negotiations with Garciaparra last March, a year after the Sox had offered Garciaparra a four-year, $60 million deal for an average value of $15 million a year. Garciaparra had counteroffered with a four-year proposal that averaged $17 million a year in March of 2003, and the sides agreed to table discussions until after the season. That's when the Sox began discussions with the Texas Rangers about A-Rod, and the Sox made a lesser offer to Garciaparra, a four-year, $48 million deal, both developments leading to an acrimonious exchange in which Tellem called the Sox "disingenuous" and Henry branded Tellem a "hypocrite."

Just before Epstein flew to New York to meet with Rodriguez, he called Garciaparra and told him he would call off the A-Rod talks if Garciaparra took the lesser offer. Garciaparra refused, the A-Rod deal fell apart, and the sides met again in spring training, a meeting, Tellem claims, which began with Henry apologizing for his remarks about Tellem.

Henry said last night that the Sox wound up offering Garciaparra $60 million -- the same figure they'd offered the year before -- but admitted much of the money was deferred. He also said Tellem never made a counterproposal to any of the Sox offers since the 2003 season ended.

Not true, Tellem said. "I was the one who suggested that we use deferred money to break the logjam," he said. "Larry Lucchino said that was a good idea. They came back with a proposal that, based on the way the players' association calculates contracts, was close to $12 million (in average annual value), and by the owners' calculation closer to, but less than, $12.5 million. It contained a significant amount of deferred money that wouldn't be paid to Nomar until he was 60 or 70. I told them respectfully that I would be in my 80s by then and given my health history, I wasn't sure I'd be around to make sure the contract was enforced."

And contradicting Henry, Tellem said he offered a counterproposal, one in which the deferred monies would be paid at the end of the contract, or when Garciaparra retired, which would have made the average annual value around $14.5 million, less than the $15 million a year the Sox had offered the year before. The Sox rejected that proposal, Tellem said, but he came away from the talks feeling positive, he said, that something might be done.

Instead, the Sox, claiming they had no chance of re-signing Garciaparra after the season, and fearing that his injury would leave him unavailable for much of the last two months, made last Saturday's trade.

"Time to move on," Tellem said.

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