Shawn Green was destined to be a Yankee. The way the Toronto Blue Jays figured it, they could delay the marriage, but certainly couldn't stop it.
It seemed perfect. The Yankees badly wanted the star right fielder. New York craved him. Green's friends and agent told him it would be the perfect place to become known as perhaps the greatest Jewish baseball star since Sandy Koufax.
There was only one man who disagreed with the notion of spending the prime of his life in New York.
It just so happened to be Green, who wanted to go home.
Green's wish of going home and playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers not only was magically fulfilled, but he became the highest-paid position player in baseball history with a six-year, $84 million contract.
It was a stunning deal that not only involved top-level secrecy, but also diplomacy, espionage, and a whole lot of sweet-talking: Green and second base prospect Jorge Nunez to Los Angeles for right fielder Raul Mondesi and reliever Pedro Borbon.
Jeff Moorad, the high-powered agent for Green and Mondesi who pulled off the coup last week, provided Baseball Weekly with a unique behind-the-scenes look at one of the biggest trades of the year.
"Everyone in the industry assumed Shawn would end up with the Yankees, and I have to admit, I was one of them," Moorad said. "New York made sense, especially for Shawn, who liked the idea of playing in a major U.S. market, as well as having the ability of making an impact in the Jewish community.
"I assumed in another year, as a free agent, we would be talking seriously with the Yankees."
Those plans dramatically changed in mid-September when Green told Moorad that he had no interest in staying in Toronto. It was time to play in a big market, he said. But he wanted to play for the Dodgers, near his hometown in Tustin, Calif.
Moorad told Green, 27, to reflect on his decision. They would talk about it again on Sept. 25 when Moorad was scheduled to travel to Toronto. Yet, before Moorad had that chance, Blue Jays general manager Gord Ash confronted Moorad in Ash's private suite midway during the game.
"He asked if the rumors were true," Moorad said. "I stopped for a moment, and said, 'I assume you're talking about the Yankees.'
"I said, 'Well, to be perfectly honest, I'm not 100% sure of that at the moment. Let me talk to him and get back to you.' He said, 'I'd just like to know what Shawn's thinking. I don't want to go into 2000 with him unsigned for the future.'"
Moorad went to dinner that evening with Green and his girlfriend. Moorad again told him that he thought the Yankees made the most sense. Green, who has an ocean-view home in Newport Beach, insisted that he would rather play in his hometown.
Actually, his hometown team is the Anaheim Angels. Yet, considering the Angels' mess, what's a 45-minute commute?
It was a week later, Oct. 1, when Ash telephoned Moorad and said they were prepared to make a five-year, $48 million deal. It would be the same deal offered to teammate Carlos Delgado. Green, who has hit 77 homers with 223 RBI the last two seasons, didn't blink. He told Moorad he still wanted to play for the Dodgers, even he if had to wait a year until he became a free agent.
Moorad, knowing that he had another unhappy client in Raul Mondesi, set the wheels in motion. Moorad told Mondesi on Oct. 4 that it was possible the Blue Jays might want to trade for him. Would he be interested in Toronto?
"He told me that he heard nothing but good things about Toronto," Moorad said. "(Dodgers center fielder) Devon White told him that they treat players great, especially the Latin players. He said, 'I'd love to put up some big numbers in the American League like everybody else. Let's go for it.'"
The next day, Moorad told Dodgers general manager Kevin Malone that Mondesi wanted out. It was no surprise. Mondesi asked to be traded in July after an obscenity-laded tirade against manager Davey Johnson and Malone.
Malone wanted Moorad not only to put Mondesi's request in writing, but also to telephone Johnson with the news. Moorad and Mondesi spoke to Johnson on a conference call, and despite Johnson's pleadings, Mondesi insisted that nothing had changed.
Now, it was time for Green to tell the Blue Jays he wanted out. Moorad and Green traveled to Toronto on Oct. 11, which just so happened to be the Canadian Thanksgiving. Ash knew that Moorad was arriving in town for a business trip, but had no idea that Green was with him. Ash told his wife, Susan, when he left his house, "This is either going to be very good, or very bad." When Ash arrived at Moorad's hotel room at 5:30 in the afternoon, and saw that Green was a surprise visitor, he knew it would be the latter.
Green told him that had no interest in signing a long-term contract with the Blue Jays. He was willing to play in Toronto in 2000, but would leave as a free agent the following season. He gave Ash a list of five teams in which he would be willing to accept a deal from, although legally he could not reject any trade: the Dodgers, Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Colorado Rockies and Chicago Cubs.
It was nothing personal, Green told Ash. It had nothing to do with manager Jim Fregosi. It had nothing to do with the coaches being fired. And no, there was nothing to the rumor his girlfriend didn't like Toronto. He just wanted to go back home.
When Green left to take a 7:30 p.m. flight, Moorad began to persuade Ash that Mondesi would be the perfect fit. Mondesi, in fact, would even agree to stay long-term with the Blue Jays as long as they guaranteed his 2002 option for $11 million and 2003 option for $13 million.
"Gord said that he preferred not to send him to the AL East division, which made Boston and the Yankees problematic," Moorad said. "He wanted to manage the process close to the vest. We agreed not to have it publicized."
Moorad told Malone about his discussions with Ash when he returned home. Malone, who had just been apprised that his third baseman, Adrian Beltre, was illegally signed at the age of 15, didn't need any more problems with the commissioner's office. He told Moorad that Ash needed to telephone him to avoid tampering charges.
Ash made the first call on Oct. 14. He not only wanted Mondesi in return for Green, but several other players. Malone and Ash talked dozens of times over the next few weeks. They discussed all sorts of scenarios, including a 10-player deal in which six Blue Jays were going to the Dodgers, but never came close to an agreement. The Dodgers refused to give up Ismael Valdes, and although Nunez was discussed extensively, Borbon never entered the picture until the final hour.
The trade talks were on life-support when Moorad, exasperated, telephoned Malone to instigate further talks. Moorad then left two messages for Ash. The first one was pleasant. The second one direct and loud.
"You're not giving Raul enough credit," Moorad yelled. "He won the Silver Slugger, two Gold Gloves, has been to the All-Star Game and was the Rookie of the Year. Don't sell the guy short."
Ash left a message for Moorad asking whether he ever considered becoming a preacher.
Malone and Ash met face-to-face on Thursday, Nov. 4, at the general managers' meetings. Malone called Moorad a few hours later at 5 p.m. (PDT). They had a tentative deal, contingent on Green agreeing to a long-term with the Dodgers. The Blue Jays would give the Dodgers 72 hours.
Green, who rushed back from Las Vegas where he was attending the Players Choice Awards, met the following day with new CEO Bob Daly and Malone. Daly told him that he would resurrect the Dodgers' tradition. Malone talked openly to him about ideas to improve the club. Daly talked to him about his own wife and son being Jewish. Daly even talked to him about the possibilities in the entertainment business, where he was the former CEO of Warner Bros.
When it came time for contract talks, the Dodgers proposed a five-year deal for about $62.5 million. Moorad proposed a seven-year deal for about $105 million. At one point, Moorad even proposed a seven-year contract with three option years. The Dodgers countered with a five-year deal and two option years.
Finally, at 12:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 8, the deal was struck. Green would receive an immediate $4 million signing bonus with annual salaries of $8.75 million, $11.5 million, $12.75, $15 million, $16 million and $16 million. Green, who will annually pay $250,000 to the Dodger Dream Foundation, also received lucrative award incentives .
Malone picked up his cell phone, dialed Green's cell phone, and simply said: "Congratulations, you're a Dodger."
And just like that, baseball's landscape was dramatically altered, with the tremor being felt from Los Angeles to Toronto.