SINCE MAJOR-LEAGUE baseball’s re-entry draft last November, 15 free agents have signed contracts worth more than $55-million.
Even Ted Turner, the free- spending Atlanta Brave owner, might consider $55-million to be a lot of money, but it could be a pittance compared with the kind of loot that may be in store for players entering the 1985 free- agent market.
Many of the players eligible for free agency after the coming season will sign new contracts with their clubs before reaching the re- entry draft, but there are at least 100 players at the moment who are in a position to leave their current employers next November.
And many of the names are impressive. Consider these high- profile players and the salaries they could command: Shortstops Ozzie Smith of the St. Louis Cardinals and Garry Templeton of the San Diego Padres; catchers Carlton Fisk of the Chicago White Sox, Darrell Porter of the Cardinals and Butch Wynegar of the New York Yankees; outfielders Willie Wilson of the Kansas City Royals, Kirk Gibson of the Detroit Tigers, Dave Parker of the Cincinnati Reds and Jim Rice of the Boston Red Sox; infielders Rod Carew and Bobby Grich of the California Angels, Ken Oberkfell of the Braves and Al Oliver of the Philadelphia Phillies; pitchers Nolan Ryan, Bob Knepper and Joe Niekro of the Houston Astros, Phil Niekro of the Yankees, Scott McGregor of the Baltimore Orioles, Geoff Zahn of the Angels, Larry McWilliams of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Willie Hernandez and Aurelio Lopez of the Tigers, Al Holland of the Phillies, Bob Stanley of the Red Sox and Bill Caudill of the Toronto Blue Jays.
And speaking of Caudill, don’t be surprised if he files for arbitration against the Jays later this month. The Braves had no interest in re-signing utility man Jerry Royster, and they make no attempts to camouflage why. “He’s too old,” Atlanta spokesman Doak Ewing said.
Royster is 32 but, according to the Padres, that’s young. That’s why they signed him. The Padres are on a senior-citizens kick. They seem determined to become the Wheeze Kids West by establishing an old folks home. They already own Graig Nettles, 40, Steve Garvey, 36, Kurt Bevacqua, 37, Champ Summers, 36, and Rich Gossage, 33.
Now, insiders tell us that the Padres are negotiating to sign a couple of outfielders who other clubs have written off as ancient history – 39- year-old journeyman Jay Johnstone and 37-year-old Al Bumbry. Has Jay pitcher Luis Leal’s knee tendinitis flared up? Leal missed a few starts in the Venezuelan League recently and his club there says tendinitis is the reason. But the Jays think that may be an excuse to calm the natives. They say their plan from the outset was to give Leal a light workload in winter ball so that he won’t be tired in the dog days of August and September. On the subject of Jay pitchers, Jim Acker says he isn’t sure if he can be classified as one. “I have no idea what they plan to do with me,” says Acker, whose Toronto contract has expired. “I really can’t worry about it. I know we have 12 major-league pitchers and can only afford to go with nine or 10.
That may leave me out, but it’s not my decision. Hey, I’m just glad when I wake up in the morning.” You can classify this as meaningless, but the Montreal Expos have reached agreement on a new contract with free-agent Miguel Dilone. Look for an announcement soon. . . . The Expos would like to sign free-agent pitcher Bruce Kison. The Jays have also expressed mild interest in Kison. . . . Jay pitcher Bryan Clark on his lifestyle in Venezuela: “I only leave my hotel room to play ball. It’s not safe to go out. You could get shot.” . . . Free-agent reliever Rollie Fingers says he has reason to believe that the Oakland A’s, for whom he starred in the 1970s, are interested in re- signing him.