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Sheffield Deal Is Still in Limbo

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Many issues have delayed the completion of a trade that would send Dodger outfielder Gary Sheffield to the Oakland Athletics for outfielder Jermaine Dye and closer Billy Koch, but baseball sources said Sunday a deal still could occur during the winter meetings here.

Dodger General Manager Dan Evans and his staff continued to evaluate the proposal after arriving in Boston, but were uncomfortable with some aspects of a trade in which pitchers Luke Prokopec and Mike Trombley would join Sheffield in the Bay Area.

Although the Dodgers and A’s have agreed on Sheffield, Dye and Koch being the primary players in the transaction, the Dodgers have concerns about other parameters, including additional prospects that could be involved on both sides. The A’s, though, have not requested that the Dodgers pay part of the remaining $20.5 million Sheffield is guaranteed, sources said.

The interest in Sheffield has increased since word emerged Thursday about the potential deal, prompting the Dodgers to consider revised offers from other clubs hoping to acquire the six-time all-star. The Dodgers also are still pursuing a deal with the Kansas City Royals for shortstop Neifi Perez, and Evans has many other items on his agenda.

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“As I said all along regarding Sheffield, until there’s a deal that makes sense for the Dodgers, Gary Sheffield is going to remain a Los Angeles Dodger,” said Evans, speaking only generally about trading the 13-year veteran. “There’s no pressure to trade Gary Sheffield. He’s one of the best right-handed hitters in baseball. I’ve said that all along and I’m going adhere to that. Nothing’s changed.

“We came here with the intention of talking to a number of clubs and a number of agents about a number of different things. If the deal makes sense for us, you know, we’ll explore it, we’ll move forward. But so far, I don’t have a situation that I feel comfortable is the right deal. One thing I just really want to make clear: We’re not going to make trades unless it makes sense for us.”

The A’s apparently have concerns too.

Two baseball executives said many Oakland officials believe the club should retain Koch because former closer Jason Isringhausen signed with the St. Louis Cardinals. Some are nervous about Sheffield’s history of blasting team officials, wondering about his influence in the A’s clubhouse.

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Beane also is working on other deals, including a trade that would bring outfielder David Justice, traded from the New York Yankees to the Mets on Friday, to Oakland. Moreover, Beane has been warned that Sheffield, despite comments to the contrary, does not want to play in Oakland, sources said.

“Gary wants to play on a winning team and Oakland certainly qualifies,” agent Scott Boras said. “When Gary put down [the 12 teams on his no-trade list], Oakland was not on the list. It was understood and discussed that that was a team that he could go to.

“It was clear to them [the Dodgers] that that was a situation that he could not block contractually.

“But as to what Gary would do with his collective bargaining agreement rights after he was traded ... [that’s] up in the air.”

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Whether traded to Oakland or another club, Sheffield could demand a trade after next season as a player traded during a multiyear contract.

A team that acquired Sheffield would have to persuade him not to exercise his trade right.

That’s where things could get tricky, considering Sheffield blasted the Dodgers and Chairman Bob Daly when his request for a contract extension was denied before spring training. The A’s could decline to exercise Sheffield’s $11-million option in 2004, making him a free agent after two more seasons, as a condition for his cooperation if a trade is completed.

“This is a business of extensions,” Boras said. “We’re not asking to have his contract renegotiated, but obviously the idea of it is that he has rights under the collective bargaining agreement that are going to have to be addressed.”

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