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Clock ticking on Yankees' talks with Santana

Monday, December 3, 2007

By RONALD BLUM

AP Baseball Writer

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The New York Yankees appeared set to pull out of trade talks for Johan Santana unless the Minnesota Twins were prepared to strike a deal late Monday night.

"I want to get it done by tonight, one way or another," Yankees senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner said as he left Legends Field, the team's spring training home in Tampa, Fla. "I'm waiting for a meeting in Nashville, and then Brian will give me a call."

As Steinbrenner was speaking, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was talking to reporters in the Yankees' suite at the sprawling Opryland Hotel, where the four-day winter meetings began. Cashman, much more cautious in his public comments than Steinbrenner, said he had not yet spoken with the Twins but wouldn't say whether he planned to later Monday.

New Twins general manager Bill Smith didn't seem concerned about the deadline. Of course, baseball teams let deadlines pass all the time only to resume talks later.

"We've got good players. We have players that maybe other clubs would like to acquire," he said. "We've had a lot of years where we keep going over and picking up the phone receiver to be make sure the dial tone was still (there). We couldn't get the phone to ring."

That's not a problem these days, with the Yankees and Boston Red Sox both pursuing Santana, a two-time Cy Young Award winner who can become a free agent after next season, and other teams inquiring about closer Joe Nathan.

While Cashman usually is surrounded by media, even with the Santana spotlight on him Smith leads a low-key existence.

"I passed through the lobby. I can still go under the radar. There aren't many people who know who the heck I am," he said.

New York offered pitcher Phil Hughes, center fielder Melky Cabrera and a midlevel prospect. The Red Sox are thought to have offered Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz or Jacoby Ellsbury -- but only one of them -- as part of a deal.

Santana's agent, Peter Greenberg, said his client was angered by a report that he has told the Twins to only trade him to the Yankees or Red Sox. Santana has made no such request, Greenberg said, and also hasn't ruled out returning to the Twins next season.

"He was very adamant about that. He wanted to make sure we clarified that. That upset him," Greenberg said. "He's been very clear all along that he wants Bill to make the best deal possible."

While the Yankees pressed for a decision, Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein didn't express any time pressure. He said there was no expiration date on any of his trade talks.

"I think we've only done that when we thought it was in our best interest," Epstein said. "We don't have current discussions ongoing for which I think that would be in our best interest. We're pretty content with where we are and we don't think anything major is getting held up."

New York did get a left-hander Monday: Andy Pettitte decided to pitch for the Yankees next season rather than retire.

Pettitte's agent, Randy Hendricks, said Monday that the 35-year-old lefty had started telling teammates on Sunday. Hendricks then informed Cashman of the news.

Hendricks said Yankees captain Derek Jeter and catcher Jorge Posada had lobbied Pettitte to return, and the pitcher consulted his wife.

"Players such as Jeter and Posada told him how much they needed him back, as did Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi," Hendricks said. "Andy decided this weekend that he didn't want to keep the Yankees on hold as they sought to determine their team for next year."

After Pettitte declined his $16 million option last month, wanting more time for his decision, the Yankees left him a standing $16 million offer.

"Sure, I'm happy," Steinbrenner said. "There's still a couple details to work out there."

In other news:

--Former commissioner Bowie Kuhn and ex-Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley were elected to the Hall of Fame by the revamped Veterans Committee along with managers Dick Williams and Billy Southworth and former Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss. Ex-players' association head Marvin Miller saw his vote percentage plummet from 64 percent to 25 percent, largely due to a shift that made current and former management members a majority.

--Washington acquired outfielder Elijah Dukes from Tampa Bay for minor league left-hander Glenn Gibson.

--The Chicago White Sox obtained outfielder Carlos Quentin from Arizona for minor league first baseman Chris Carter.

--Boston reached a preliminary agreement on a $3 million, one-year contract with reliever Mike Timlin.

--The Yankees finalized their $4 million, two-year deal with backup catcher Jose Molina and designated first baseman Andy Phillips for assignment.

Other trades were percolating in the meeting rooms.

Florida is expected to deal third baseman Miguel Cabrera sometime soon, and Baltimore is shopping shortstop Miguel Tejada. Oakland is checking out the market for pitcher Dan Haren.

Cashman admitted there's a fear that players he might trade could win Cy Young Awards for another team.

"I'm definitely fully vested in a lot of the young talent. You get attached to it," Cashman said.


AP Sports Writer Jimmy Golen in Nashville, AP Sports Writer John Krawczynski in Minneapolis and AP freelance writer Mark Didtler in Tampa, Fla., contributed to this report.



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