03/15/2003 9:11 PM ET
Schott: A's won't re-sign Tejada
Owner says club can't afford MVP shortstop
PHOENIX -- This time, the A's aren't even going to go through the motions of trying to keep a reigning MVP, announcing Saturday that the club won't offer All-Star shortstop Miguel Tejada a long-term contract.
Owner Steve Schott told reporters Saturday that the team can't afford to keep Tejada, as much as they'd like to, because they don't have the revenue to support the kind of contract the 2002 American League MVP will command when he becomes a free agent at the end of the season.
So, just like with Jason Giambi two years ago, it appears Oakland's most recent MVP will be taking his career elsewhere.
"I just think the world of him," Schott said of Tejada. "The problem is there's absolutely no way we can sign Miguel to a long-term contract.
"The system is broken down when only two or three teams can pick up a player of Miguel's caliber and sign him to an eight- to 10-year contract and pay him the money he deserves. This small-market team with the system we have just can't afford him."
After announcing the decision to the media, Schott took Tejada aside to break the news to him just before the A's played the Mariners. The two were said to have embraced after the talk.
|By John Schlegel / MLB.com
Once he left Saturday's game, Tejada said he wasn't taken by surprise or disappointed by the club's decision, even if it means it's likely his career with the A's -- the team that brought him in at the age of 17 out of the Dominican Republic -- will be over after this season.
"That's business," said Tejada, 26. "I really want to stay here. I know it's hard for them to keep me here. That's business. I'm going to keep playing this year. They might change their mind."
The likelihood of that doesn't appear very strong at all. The A's have no new ballpark or other means of generating revenue on the horizon, and they know full well Tejada will be a huge commodity on the open market.
That's why the club made this decision before any negotiating even took place.
"When you look at the market and you have a player of that caliber, you realize you can't even get close," said A's general manager Billy Beane.
Said Tejada: "I thought they'd offer something to me but they never did, but I'm OK. That doesn't bother me. I'm glad they came to me and told me the truth."
The timing of the announcement might seem curious to some, considering A's fans now have gone from having at least some hope to practically no hope that one of their greatest players will be in Oakland beyond this season.
"Is there ever a good time to say you're not going to sign one of your best players?" Beane said. "There's no such thing as good timing for that."
The timing is different than the Giambi situation, but the outcome looks like it will be the same.
"We could lose two MVPs in two years to the system," Schott said. "Sure, it (ticks) me off."
The difference between the two scenarios is that the A's did make offers to Giambi, and in fact came close to having a deal during Spring Training prior to the 2001 season, his last in Oakland. The two sides got hung up on a no-trade clause at that point, although the A's did stay in the hunt for Giambi right up to the point he signed with the Yankees, signing for $120 million over seven years. The A's last offer was for six years, $91 million.
But the A's payroll is in a different place now, which is why they are so emphatic so early that they won't be able to retain Tejada. All three of their top starters -- Barry Zito, Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson -- and Gold Glove third baseman Eric Chavez are wrapped up in long-term deals that are escalating in salary.
"Some of these younger players are making more money," Beane said. "We probably have less flexibility now because their contracts are getting up there."
Tejada, who made $3.65 million last season and will get $5 million this year, has not said how much money he will ask for. Tejada hit .308 with 34 home runs and 131 RBIs last season to win MVP honors and lead the A's into the postseason for the third straight year.
But now it seems that he'll be having to say goodbye to the organization he has grown up in and the players he's grown up with.
"We're like a family, and now we have to split up and play for different teams," he said.
Chavez told reporters that he appreciates the organization being up-front about the situation, but the move caught him by surprise.
"For some reason, this one's a little bit bigger (than Giambi)," Chavez said. "He's at the center of our core. It's weird to hear that. Obviously, he's just too much of a commodity for Oakland."
But he's still Oakland's commodity for one more year. And Tejada says he intends to make it a successful one.
"Now I've got to prepare to have a big year," Tejada said. "That's not because I want to go somewhere. That's not because I want to get a big paycheck.
"I'm going to play hard because this year is the year I think we can make it to the World Series. I want to go to the World Series, and I'd like it to be with this team this year."
John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.