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Strawberry's agent, Yankees keep talking American League


NEW YORK -- One of George Steinbrenner's proposals for Darryl Strawberry's contract that kept the slugger from joining the New York Yankees, as scheduled, on Sunday would have subjected Strawberry's children to drug tests as beneficiaries of a trust created with his Yankee salary.

Another would have given the club the right to release Strawberry if he violated a deal the owner wanted him to make with the Internal Revenue Service.

Strawberry's agent rejected those proposals and others, people familiar with the dispute said. But talks between the two sides yesterday led several people to say they were closing in on an agreement, and one person said he expected Strawberry to join the team later this week.

Bill Goodstein, Strawberry's agent, had a series of telephone conversations with David Sussman, the Yankees executive vice president and general counsel, and Lonn Trost, an outside lawyer representing the club. The talks continued into the evening.

Asked about the reports from other people that they were moving closer to resolving the dispute, Sussman said: "I remain optimistic that we'll be able to resolve this because we've never been far apart. The key elements of the contract have been in place and never were in dispute. What is left are these other issues, and we're working on them."

One person familiar with the talks said that whatever agreement they wound up with, the Yankees would not be in a position to allocate Strawberry's salary. Goodstein would handle everything, the person said.

Goodstein had said Sunday that he would file a grievance with the Players Association over what he said were the Yankees' efforts to change their agreement and the club's refusal to recall Strawberry from their Columbus minor-league team. But no grievance was filed as the two sides kept talking.

The Yankees never have announced when Strawberry was to join them, but the people who talked about the negotiations said the club had given the player an airplane ticket to get him to New York by Sunday and that security measures had been put in place for Sunday.

But Strawberry remained in Charlotte, N.C., with Triple-A Columbus as Goodstein and Steinbrenner failed to resolve their differences. Steinbrenner's insistence on allocation of Strawberry's salary led to speculation that the owner was having second thoughts about signing Strawberry and was seeking a )) way to scuttle the deal.

But one person said that Steinbrenner's attempts at allocation stemmed from criticism he received over the signing from Lee Brown, President Clinton's drug adviser and a former New York City police commissioner.

"Steinbrenner started demanding other things when Lee Brown started criticizing him," the person said.

But Sussman, in a statement, said that Steinbrenner and Goodstein had discussed about a month ago the possibility of Strawberry's donating a portion of his salary to drug prevention and treatment organizations. Furthermore, Sussman said, they discussed the establishment of a trust to provide financial security for Strawberry's children.

"The Yankees even had financed the drafting of trust documents, which were discussed with Mr. Goodstein," Sussman said.

Sussman didn't say, but others said the documents were drafted by a Florida law firm, Holland and Knight. They included a provision dealing with substance abuse. The beneficiaries of the trust, the provision stipulated, would be subject to "one or more" tests.

"This is a provision routinely included in today's climate," a Holland and Knight lawyer explained in the proposal.

Under the trust proposal, Strawberry's $675,000 salary would have been placed in the trust. When Goodstein rejected that idea, the Yankees proposed dividing Strawberry's salaries into thirds to be divided among Strawberry, an irrevocable trust for his children and two drug centers, Daytop Village and Hale House.

When that proposal was rejected, the Yankees focused on the taxes Strawberry owes. Sussman, in his statement, said the club learned last Friday for the first time "the scope of Strawberry's debt to the IRS, which was quite substantial."

Under the next proposal, the salary would have gone to a bank -- Citibank, one person said -- and Sussman said the Yankees would have paid for the bank's services. The bank, Sussman said, would have insured that "his debt to the IRS, and his obligations of alimony created by law would be paid, as well as money set aside for his children."

Finally, the Yankees proposed that Strawberry make a deal with the IRS, and if he violated it, they could release him without challenge from Strawberry.

Under terms of the original agreement between Strawberry and the Yankees, he would receive $675,000 for this season, and the Yankees would have an option for another year at a $1.8 million salary or pay Strawberry a $175,000 buyout. He also would receive a $100,000 payment at the owner's discretion.

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