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Larkin Price Too Steep For Reds

Barry Larkin and the Cincinnati Reds could be heading for a split.

The 11-time All-Star shortstop says the Reds have told him he will be traded or become a free agent after the season. The Reds say they can't afford him at his asking price of $27.9 million for three years.

"We would like for him to become one of the few players of his stature to play his entire career with one team," John Allen, the Reds' chief operating officer, said Wednesday.

The Reds reportedly have offered Larkin a multiyear deal worth $6 million annually. Allen did not reveal the offer.

"I don't want to get into a war of words," Larkin said prior to Wednesday's game at Houston. "All I've asked is to be paid at fair market value. They have informed me that they are not willing to do that."

"I was willing to defer some of the money like Junior (Ken Griffey Jr.) I was told no, that wasn't an issue because we weren't in the ballpark," he said. "It's a business decision. That's the first thing they said."

Allen said Larkin and his agent are unwilling to move off their contract demands. He added that he met with Larkin in Detroit on Monday and told him the Reds will not meet such terms.

"I did not tell Barry that we were not interested in keeping him in Cincinnati," Allen said. "I simply informed him that we were not able to sign him for the amount of money he has demanded."

Larkin said of his conversation with Allen: "He just told me I would either be traded or become a free agent."

The 36-year-old shortstop has played all of his 14 years in the major leagues in Cincinnati, his hometown. He wants to finish his career with the Reds.

"It's an emotional thing," he said. "But I'm a professional. You have to play the game, man. I just have to do my job and play as hard as I can to represent myself and do what I do."

He and agent Eric Goldschmidt had been stuck for weeks in their negotiations with the Reds.

Larkin is at the end of a contract that pays him $5.3 million this season. He signed that contract after his 1995 most valuable player season, at lower salaries than he could have received on the free agent market.

Larkin's veteran status would allow him to veto a trade, if one is proposed.

Teammates said they can't imagine the Reds without Larkin, the captain who played for Cincinnati's 1990 World Series championship club.

Dmitri Young said the Reds should find the money to re-sign Larkin.

"He's Mr. Cincinnati. That tkes away from the purity of a guy staying with one team his whole career," Young said.

"I don't know if you could ever imagine Barry Larkin out of a Reds uniform," reliever Danny Graves said. "It's going to feel weird not to have him in the clubhouse and on the field with us."

The Reds on Tuesday let go another member of their 1990 championship team, sending backup first baseman Hal Morris to the Detroit Tigers for cash.

Last week, the Reds gave up trying to re-sign pitcher Denny Neagle, who becomes a free agent after the season. He was traded to the New York Yankees for four minor leaguers.

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