Sosa-to-O's deal has minor hurdles
Slugger must pass physical, waive no-trade clause
CHICAGO -- The Sammy Sosa era in Chicago may end this week.
Sosa has to take care of a few technicalities if he is to be traded from the Chicago Cubs to the Baltimore Orioles. Some details of the proposed deal still need finalizing, such as Sosa passing a physical and restructuring his contract.
Cubs general manager Jim Hendry told MLB.com on Saturday there was nothing new regarding the rumored trade and repeated that no deal was in place.
According to reports, the Cubs would send Sosa, 36, and cash to the Orioles in exchange for Jerry Hairston Jr. and two minor leaguers, second baseman Mike Fontenot and pitcher Dave Crouthers.
Sosa was expected in Baltimore on Tuesday to undergo an exam. Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig's approval, which could come as soon as Monday, would be necessary because the trade would involve the transfer of $1 million or more.
Sosa was to be paid $17 million this year, and the Cubs have an $18 million option for 2006 with a $4.5 million buyout. If Sosa was traded, his 2006 salary became guaranteed, which had been a stumbling block for teams interested in acquiring him.
There were reports that Sosa was willing to void the 2006 portion of his contract, which would require approval from the Players Association. The Cubs also were believed to be willing to pay a portion of Sosa's 2005 contract.
Hendry did talk to teams on Friday regarding Sosa, who batted .253 in 2004, his lowest average since 1997. He hit 35 home runs and drove in 80 runs in 126 games, missing one month because of sneeze-induced back spasms. Sosa enters the 2005 season with 574 career home runs and ranks seventh on the all-time list.
If Sosa is traded, the Cubs will have to fill both corner outfield spots in 2005. Left fielder Moises Alou, who hit 39 homers and drove in 106 runs last season, left via free agency to sign with the San Francisco Giants.
Todd Hollandsworth and rookie Jason Dubois were expected to platoon in left for the Cubs. Hairston, a solid athlete who played more games in the outfield (52) last year than at second base (12), could rotate in the outfield for the Cubs.
It would be a homecoming of sorts for Hairston, whose father, Jerry Sr., played 14 years for the Chicago White Sox.
Sosa is the Cubs' all time home run leader, and coming off his 12th consecutive season with 20 or more home runs. He was the toast of the town in 1998 when he and Mark McGwire staged a captivating home run race and won the National League Most Valuable Player Award that year.
But in 2003, Sosa's reputation was tarnished when he was suspended for using a corked bat, and last season, he angered team officials by leaving the final game of the season without permission. He was fined one day's salary -- $87,400 -- for his premature exit.
Wrigley Field fans cheered Sosa as he took the field with his trademark run to right field but booed him when he struck out or failed to come through with runners on.
"It was amazing to see him get booed because in Chicago sports history, he's one of the top players in franchise history in Chicago," Cubs second baseman Todd Walker told WSCR Radio in Chicago on Friday night. "I relate it to (Michael) Jordan. I can't imagine Chicago Bulls fans ever booing Jordan. That being said, I think it's time for a move (for Sosa). I think he needs a fresh start. The city of Chicago is going to miss a great player, but I think he needs to move also."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. Gary Washburn contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.