Sunday, July 23, 2000

Larkin nixes deal to Mets

Bowden: SS will stay a Red rest of the season

By By Chris Haft and Tom Groeschen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Barry Larkin gestures to the crowd after Saturday's game.
(Brandi Stafford photo)
| ZOOM |
        Barry Larkin has declined a trade to the New York Mets and will remain with the Reds for the rest of the 2000 season, Reds General Manager Jim Bowden said late Saturday night.

        “His agent, Eric Gold schmidt, told (Mets General Manager) Steve Phillips as well as the Reds that Barry's decision was to decline his trade,” Bowden said. “Therefore, he will remain with the Reds.”

        The Mets, having agreed to send three players to the Reds for Larkin if he approved the trade, had received permission to begin negotiating with the 14-year veteran shortstop and Goldschmidt. That 72-hour window began at 10 a.m. Saturday, and Bowden told the Enquirer of Larkin's decision just after 11 p.m. Saturday night.

Should the Reds give in and give Barry Larkin what he is demanding so he can remain a Red for life?
        New York's unwillingness to extend Larkin's contract beyond this season led to the deal's breakdown. That became clear to Goldschmidt when he spoke to Phillips on Saturday night. Larkin had said that he did not want to be a “hired gun” obtained by a team just to help its postseason bid.

        Bowden said he will not consider any other trade proposals for Larkin this season. As many as four other teams have expressed interest in acquiring Larkin before the July 31 trading deadline.

        “There will be no other deal,” Bowden said. “This organization feels that we treated him with class and dignity. ... We accommodated what he requested from us. There are going to be no other trades.”

        Larkin and Mets officials were unavailable for comment late Saturday, but Goldschmidt gave no indication that the dissolving of the trade would strengthen Larkin's chance of re-signing with Cincinnati.

        “They (the Reds) have made very little effort (to renew contract talks),” Goldschmidt said. “This is what they wanted: To try to trade Barry to get some premium prospects and not take on any salary. Once again, they disregarded Barry's wish not to put him in this situation unless his contract status could be worked out.”

        Larkin's future with the Reds has been jeopardized by his refusal to accept less than a three-year, $27.9 mil lion contract extension. Saturday night's developments may put a different light on things, but for now, Reds fans will be pleased that the Moeller High School product is staying in town.

        “I think this is a great sign he wants to stay with Cincinnati, and hopefully continue to negotiate and end his career as a Red,” Bowden said.

        Earlier Saturday, Larkin said he would still consider the Mets' contractual offer that would seal their acquisition of him. Some believed the Mets were not offering Larkin a contract beyond this year.

        Mets officials wouldn't say what they could offer Larkin, but a delegation of club executives and players was prepared to fly to Cincinnati in co-owner Fred Wilpon's private jet to lobby the 11-time All-Star. Larkin's major-league tenure gives him the right to veto any trade.

        Bowden had an inkling of what Larkin's decision would be.

        “Barry and his agent informed us that if (the Mets) don't sign him for three years at $27.9 million, he would reject the trade,” Bowden said. It is believed 21-year-old outfielder Alex Escobar was among the trio the Reds would have obtained if Larkin accepted the trade. Escobar, one of New York's top minor-league prospects, is hitting .271 with 11 homers and 42 RBI for Double-A Binghamton.

        The other two players were believed to be pitchers.

        Reds fans, jarred by the possibility of losing a native son, greeted Larkin with loud applause before each of his five at-bats in the Reds' 7-3 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday afternoon. There was a minute-long standing ovation from the crowd of 42,568 before Larkin's first-inning plate appearance.

        “It was an emotional moment,” said Larkin, who responded with a single, his only hit of the day. “I had to step out (of the batter's box). I was very appreciative. It's an emotional time for me. I think you could see it in the mistakes I made out there today.”

        Other Reds also were overwhelmed.

        “Awesome. Totally awesome,” left fielder Dmitri Young said.

        “I got a little choked up in the dugout,” first baseman Sean Casey said. “You can't say enough things about Barry Larkin, how much he means to this organization, how much he means to this city and the game of baseball — sometimes you can't put a price tag on that.”

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