BOSTON, Dec. 10 (UPI) -- Major League Baseball executive vice president Sandy Alderson said Monday that owners and the players' union were negotiating a proposed contraction settlement and that an agreement, "could come at any time."
A published report Monday suggested players and owners were inching closer to an agreement that would table contraction until 2003.
Commissioner Bud Selig has said baseball would eliminate two teams and the owners had hoped to do so in time for the 2002 season. Although the teams that will be eliminated have not been announced, varying reports have suggested they will be Montreal and Minnesota.
"I think things could be resolved fairly soon," Alderson said at an improptu news conference at baseball's winter meetings. "Then again, they might not be. There have been discussions for several days on the topic and a deal could come at any time. I'd rather not speculate on when or comment on any aspects of a deal until an agreement is reached."
Alderson's comments come during a gathering of baseball officials that has been paralyzed by uncertainty.
That could come to an end if teams like the Florida Marlins, Minnesota Twins and Montreal Expos can hang "open for business" signs on their hotel suites. Nearly every general manager has said at one time or another this month that the uncertainty over contraction has been a factor in trades and free agent signings.
The proposed agreement would give both sides a year to negotiate and possibly lighten the tension as the owners and union attempt to hammer out a collective bargaining agreement and avoid a work stoppage.
Players wanted the issues resolved to help their bargaining power while owners wanted matters taken care of because delays in scheduling were getting costly.
With all these issues up in the air, it was not surprising that the first two days of the meetings were unproductive.
The one big move came when the Chicago Cubs acquired shortstop Alex Gonzalez from the Toronto Blue Jays. Gonzalez, a lifetime .245 hitter, became a casualty of Toronto's cost-cutting measures and promising farm system. The Blue Jays got back lefthander Felix Heredia and a player to be named.
The day's only other move did not even take place in Boston as the St. Louis Cardinals completed their four-year deal with former Oakland Athletics closer Jason Isringhausen. The pact is worth a reported $27 million.