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Sheffield will not rule out Rays

In demanding trade, he targeted 3 teams. His agent includes Tampa Bay.

By JOHN ROMANO and MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 21, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- Gary Sheffield has identified the Braves, Mets and Yankees as teams he would prefer in a trade, but his agent said Tuesday the Dodgers star outfielder also would be agreeable to joining the Devil Rays.

"Those are three teams Gary has targeted, but that's not to say other teams are not in there," agent Jim Neader said. "I think he'd thrive (in Tampa Bay). I think he'd make them proud."

The Rays have had very preliminary discussions about a possible Sheffield trade, the Los Angeles Times reported today. Dodgers general manager Kevin Malone said he has heard from a number of teams.

Rays general manager Chuck LaMar declined to address the issue, citing his long-standing policy of not publicly discussing potential trades.

"I'm not going to discuss Gary Sheffield or any other player," LaMar said. "I'm not going to comment on someone else's player or on any conversations I might be having about any players at this time. That has been my policy since I arrived here."

Sheffield, who grew up in Tampa and has a home in St. Petersburg, has expressed interest in the past about playing for the Rays.

Sheffield recently told the Dodgers he wanted to be traded after the team rebuffed his request for a contract extension. He has three years remaining on his contract, which guarantees him $30-million and includes an option for a fourth year. Neader said an extension would not be required of a team trading for Sheffield, although Sheffield would have the right to declare for free agency a year after a trade.

Sheffield has a limited no-trade clause that allows him to block deals to what is said to be 10 teams, and Neader said the Rays are not on that list.

When asked if the Rays were Sheffield's next-best choice after the Braves, Mets and Yankees, Neader was noncommittal. "I wouldn't make any strict order past that, but you have to think that's not beyond question," Neader said. "You'd have to think that."

Malone has stated he wants equal or better value for Sheffield. He made overtures about New York's Mike Piazza or Edgardo Alfonzo, but Mets general manager Steve Phillips rejected those proposals.

The Los Angeles Times also reported talks of a three-way deal that would send Sheffield to the Mets, Sammy Sosa to the Dodgers and Mets prospect Alex Escobar to the Cubs.

The Rays might have a potential match in terms of talent and salary level.

Leftfielder Greg Vaughn has averaged 41 home runs and 104 RBI the past three seasons. Sheffield has averaged 33 home runs and 98 RBI. Like Sheffield, Vaughn has three years remaining on his contract, which will pay him $26.25-million. Vaughn has a partial no-trade clause that is believed to allow deals to the West Coast teams. At 32, Sheffield is three years younger than Vaughn.

Sheffield announced last year he was selling his St. Petersburg home and planning to move out of the area. Neader said those plans are on hold and Sheffield is dividing his time between his homes in St. Petersburg and Los Angeles.

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