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Tigers Offer Gonzalez $140 Million

January 29, 2000 GMT

DETROIT (AP) _ Stand aside, Derek Jeter. Before you get a chance to sign the largest contract in baseball history, Juan Gonzalez and the Detroit Tigers might beat you to it.

But first, Gonzalez has to make it to Detroit.

Detained by personal matters in his native Puerto Rico on Friday, Gonzalez missed a scheduled press conference where the Tigers planned to introduce the slugger to the city and hoped to announce he signed a contract that would pay him $140 million over eight years.

When he does arrive, there is no guarantee Gonzalez will accept the contract offer, said Tigers general manager Randy Smith. But Smith said he is hopeful an agreement can be reached before the start of spring training.

``We have had ongoing negotiations for some time,″ Smith said. ``The talks have been very private and anything I say would probably be detrimental.″

Gonzalez’s deal with the Tigers would exceed the seven-year, $118.5 million contract Jeter is reportedly close to signing with the New York Yankees.

While initially hopeful Gonzalez could get in sometime this weekend, Smith learned later Friday the player would not return to Detroit this weekend.

``Just yesterday, I went through the painful experience of a divorce,″ Gonzalez said in a statement apologizing to Tigers’ fans. ``Right now, I am experiencing very difficult hours, as I am a human being.

``I trust that in the near future the good Lord will allow me to share good moments as a Tiger and a human being with all of you.″

If Gonzalez does accept, the deal would beat the $105 million contract Kevin Brown got from the Los Angeles Dodgers before last season. Brown averages $15 million a season, while the Tigers would pay Gonzalez $17.5 million a year.

Isn’t that a lot of money for a player who would be 38 years old by the end of the contract?

``No,″ Smith said. ``This guy is one of the best players in the game. His consistency is phenomenal. He’s always been productive. We think this is a good offer for a great player.″

Gonzalez, a two-time American League MVP, has a .295 batting average and 340 home runs after 11 seasons in the major leagues, all with Texas. He was acquired in a nine-player trade with the Rangers in November. In all but four of his 11 seasons, Gonzalez had driven in over 100 runs.


Last season, he hit .326 with 39 homers and 128 RBIs.

``When you have a player of this caliber _ on his way to Cooperstown _ he’s going to be expensive,″ Smith said. ``But we think he’s worth it, especially if he stays consistent.″

Consistency may depend upon whether Gonzalez is content. He has been known to be moody, and he just went through another divorce. Gonzalez and merengue singer Olga Tanon finalized their divorce Thursday in Puerto Rico.

Tanon’s lawyer, Alfredo Castellanos, said that the couple split amicably and have ``true tranquility between them and good communication.″ Married in December 1998, they have a 3-year-old daughter, Gabriela.

Tanon vowed in November to end their marriage after Gonzalez lost his appeal in a paternity suit. He has been married four times and has three children from three women.

Gonzalez recently met his 4-year-old son, Igor Alberto, for the first time after losing the paternity suit brought by the boy’s mother, Liza Ferrer. She said she became pregnant by Gonzalez while he dated Tanon.

Jeter said he was unconcerned that Gonzalez’s contract might exceed the one he’s negotiating with the Yankees.

``You don’t worry about what other players get, or other players sign for,″ he said in Tampa, Fla. ``If you come to terms on a good deal, any player, once you sign a deal, you go out and you play. You don’t really sit around and dwell on what another player gets.″

Jeter’s deal still isn’t complete, either.

``If and when you do it, once you sign it, you don’t really care what anyone else gets,″ he said. ``You sign that deal because you’re happy with the team, you’re happy with the city and you want to play there.″