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Godwin's knee kills deal with Rangers

By Allan Simpson

Tyrell Godwin, one of baseball's most elusive draft picks, has done an about-face and will not sign with the Rangers, after the two sides had reached a tentative agreement last week.

Godwin, a supplemental first-round pick in June, was set to sign for a $1.2 million bonus last week, pending a doctor's examination. But the exam raised concerns for the Rangers, who said Godwin had a pre-existing knee injury. On Tuesday, they drastically reduced their bonus offer.

Godwin decided to reject the Rangers' offer altogether and return to school at North Carolina, where he is a senior. He did not attend the first day of classes on Tuesday while waiting to work out a deal with the Rangers, but he now says he will attend class on Wednesday, which would rescind the Rangers' negotiating rights.

"The deal is off," Godwin's adviser Brian Peters said. "He will not sign with the Rangers."

This would be the second time Godwin has declined to sign after being selected in the first round. He was a first-round pick of the Yankees coming out of a North Carolina high school in 1997. He rejected a $1.9 million offer from the Yankees to attend UNC.

Strangely, this is also the second time in recent years that the Rangers have had a premium draft pick's signing affected by a physical examination. The Rangers voided the contract of righthander R.A. Dickey, their first-round pick in 1996, when a physical revealed that Dickey was missing a ligament in his pitching elbow. Dickey, now at Triple-A Oklahoma in the Rangers system, had agreed to a $810,000 bonus, but he later signed for $75,000.

Godwin's bonus was not slashed quite that drastically, but he was not willing to accept the revised offer.

"They dropped the bonus to a point where I couldn't accept it," Godwin said. "It's disheartening and frustrating, but I'm ready to move on."

Peters questions the Rangers' rationale for pulling their original offer. "They had all the medical reports they needed before they drafted him," he said. "And now they're saying there is a problem with the knee."

Rangers general manager Doug Melvin said the club did not have enough medical information on Godwin's knee at the time of the draft.

"We did not have a hands-on physical," he said. "No team did. We only had a report on the surgery that was done on the knee two years ago.

"If we had the information before the draft that we've gotten now through MRIs and X-rays, we probably wouldn't have even drafted him. We have two separate reports that indicate there is a problem with his knee."

According to Melvin, Godwin's knee requires surgery that would keep him on the sidelines until at least next June or July, or until instructional league next year if reconstructive surgery was required. Peters says the situation isn't that dire.

"The surgery isn't necessary for him to be able play now," Melvin said. "The only reason for doing it now is so he won't run into problems down the road."

The Rangers had little reason to suspect a problem with Godwin's physical. He was rated the fastest college player in the draft and missed no time in three years at North Carolina because of knee problems. He also had little chance to aggravate the problem because he did not play this summer.

But last week's exam showed that Godwin does not have an anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, a condition that has existed since high school. He also had arthroscopic surgery to repair the meniscus in the knee between his freshman and sophomore seasons. Complications may have developed with the latter surgery.

"There was no indication when we drafted him that there was a problem because we graded him as an 80 runner," Melvin said. "But you don't take any chances with a player who has had surgery and faces additional surgery. It's all about risk."

Godwin offered to defer his entire bonus until after he had the surgery and proves himself fit, but the Rangers declined that offer.

"I don't want to take the money from them if I'm not going to play," Godwin said. "I thought it was fair to me and fair to them."

The Rangers countered with an offer of than $100,000 up front with additional payments contingent on Godwin returning to top form. The total value amounted to less than half the original $1.2 million bonus.

"We made him an offer that was reduced based on his physical," Melvin said.

Godwin was already upset with the Rangers because they reduced his signing bonus to $1.2 million when he said he wanted to finish school before he joined the organization. The Rangers wanted him to attend instructional league this fall, but bowed to his desire to finish college. A history major, he has 12 credit hours left to earn his degree.

Everything fell apart when the physical revealed potential knee problems.

Even though Godwin has returned to school, he might not play baseball for the Tar Heels as a senior--even if he decides to have surgery immediately. He'll face a lengthy rehabilitation. And by graduating in December he could look into other baseball opportunities, including signing with an independent league club. No matter what he does, he will be subject to the draft again next June. No player has ever been picked in the first round three different times.

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