Nevin Rejects Trade to Orioles

By Jorge Arangure Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 26, 2005

BALTIMORE, July 25 -- Not Manager Lee Mazzilli's impassioned speech, nor Chris Gomez's advice, nor the opportunity to remain an everyday player on a contending team could persuade Phil Nevin to leave his family behind in San Diego. On Monday evening, he declined to waive his limited no-trade clause, thereby nullifying a trade that would have sent Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Sidney Ponson to the Padres in exchange for the first baseman.

"I think I've said to people that the factors that would prevail would be reflected by the decision," Barry Axelrod, Nevin's agent, said. "If his baseball career would have taken precedent he would have gone to Baltimore. Even if it's going to be a diminished role in San Diego, honestly after he spent the day with his wife and kids it became clear to him. I was surprised it took him so long to say no."

The Orioles, who have not officially said that a trade had even been agreed upon, declined to comment.

"We don't talk about trades until they happen," Orioles spokesman Bill Stetka said.

The Padres and Orioles agreed to the trade on Saturday and all that remained for it to be official was Nevin's approval. Nevin, in a contract signed after he hit 41 home runs in 2001, had included a list of eight teams, including the Orioles, to which he could not be traded to, partly because of his strong desire to stay in San Diego with his family.

Twice before Nevin had rejected trades, to the Milwaukee Brewers and the Cincinnati Reds.

But the Padres had made the decision to stay in San Diego difficult for Nevin, who is hitting .263 with nine home runs, when they informed him on Saturday he would no longer be the regular first baseman.

On Sunday, the Orioles were granted a 72-hour window in which they could speak with Nevin. In a morning phone call prior to Baltimore's game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Mazzilli spoke with Nevin, and apparently that had been enough to persuade a person close to the deal to believe the trade would be completed.

"I'm surprised," that person said. "Where does he go from here in San Diego? We weren't dealing with a baseball issue. I'm not smart enough to know what is said between a man and his wife."

Axelrod was surprised that Nevin, who carries a stolid demeanor, would have given the impression he was accepting the deal.

"I don't know where that optimism came from other that the fact Phil was still considering it," Axelrod said. "I'm not saying they shouldn't have had hope, but maybe optimism shouldn't have been what they were feeling."

What happens now with Ponson is unknown. The Orioles had thought they finally had rid themselves of the underachieving pitcher, whom they have regretted signing to a three-year, $22.5 million deal prior to the 2004 season.

"We had several teams interested in him recently," a source close to the Orioles said. "Now we can go back to them. Maybe another team comes out. It's obvious that we'll trade Sidney Ponson."

Since rejoining the Orioles in 2004, Ponson has an 18-24 record with a 5.52 ERA. Several off-the-field problems, including punching a judge in Aruba on Christmas, have also hampered Ponson's second stint in Baltimore.

Baltimore has spoken with the Texas Rangers about a possible swap for outfielder Richard Hidalgo.

"It's an interesting deal," the source close to the Orioles said.

The source said , however, it isn't likely any major move will happen until this weekend and called the chances "remote" that the Nevin-for-Ponson trade would be revisited. The trading deadline is on Sunday.

Ponson has declined to comment since June 28 because he believes the media have treated him unfairly. Agent Barry Praver, who represents Ponson, did not return a phone call.

The trade for Nevin seemed an ideal fit financially since the players' salaries through next season are separated by only $500,000. Instead both teams must retain a player there were ready to dispense.

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