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Orioles-Sosa Deal Will Be for One Year

By Jorge Arangure Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 30, 2005; Page E08

BALTIMORE, Jan. 29 -- In order to facilitate a trade to the Baltimore Orioles, Chicago Cubs superstar outfielder Sammy Sosa will waive a clause in his contract that would have guaranteed him $18 million in 2006. Instead Sosa will become a free agent after the 2005 season, according to a baseball source. The Orioles, who reportedly will receive $10 million from the Cubs as part of the trade, will only be committed financially to Sosa for one season at $7.5 million.

Though Baltimore and the Cubs have sorted out most of the details of the blockbuster trade involving Sosa, it may take some time before the likely future Hall of Famer officially becomes a member of the Orioles.


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No progress was made on Saturday with the trade that will send Jerry Hairston, David Crouthers and Mike Fontenot to Chicago in exchange for Sosa and cash. The commissioner's office, which needs to approve the deal because of the money involved, won't look at the trade until Monday at the earliest. The MLB Players' Association, which will also need to approve the deal because of the restructuring of Sosa's deal, had not received any paperwork on the deal and likely won't until Monday.

The players need to pass physicals. According to one baseball official with knowledge of the deal, at least one of the examinations is scheduled for Wednesday, meaning that would be the earliest day in which an announcement could be made.

Despite the long process, unless a player fails a physical, the deal should be completed, perhaps by the end of next week.

Historically, the players' union doesn't allow a player to accept a deal that will diminish the total value of his contract, as was the case last year when Alex Rodriguez was denied permission to join the Boston Red Sox under a radically restructured contract. Sosa's contract was regarded differently, the source said, because the money for 2006 was not guaranteed and the Cubs weren't likely to exercise the option.

Sosa's desire to get a deal done also was taken into consideration. He receives free agency after next season, but it's not likely he will be able to find a team to match the $18 million he would have received in 2006.

What remains in question is which team will pay the $4.5 million buyout of Sosa's contract for 2006.

The Orioles continue to reserve comment. Calls to Hairston and several other Orioles players were not returned. Several members of the front office have not returned a phone call since Thursday. Executive Vice President Jim Beattie was unavailable as he departed for a family vacation on Saturday.

"We have nothing to report or nothing to comment on," Baltimore spokesman Bill Stetka said.

The loss of Fontenot and Crouthers, considered average prospects, won't deplete the Baltimore farm system. Fontenot, a first-round pick in 2001, emerged as a capable but not spectacular second baseman. Listed at 5 feet 8, and likely smaller, Fontenot hit .279 with 111 strikeouts and only 14 stolen bases for Class AAA Ottawa. Crouthers, 9-9 with a 5.03 ERA in Class AA Bowie last year, is regarded as the Orioles' fifth-best minor league pitching prospect.

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