SAN DIEGO — The winter baseball meetings will open here today.
Shamu, the killer whale at Sea World, is expected to make a bigger splash.
Since the new collective bargaining agreement has eliminated virtually all the interleague trading deadlines, this year's event is expected to be devoid of the widespread wheeling-and-dealing that once made the winter get-together a baseball swap meet.
The meetings used to end on a Friday with a midnight trading deadline. They used to end with a flurry of 11th-hour negotiations in a smoke-filled lobby.
It's appropriate that the Town and Country Hotel, headquarters for the 1985 meetings, lacks a lobby.
Who needs the camouflage of a potted palm when there is no trading deadline? The meetings are now scheduled to end Thursday.
The only trading deadline is July 31, and that only to the extent that waivers are required to consummate a trade between Aug. 1 and the end of the season.
Said an American League official who requested anonymity: "I don't think the meetings will be as meaningful now as they've been in the past."
Said Pat Gillick, the Toronto Blue Jays general manager: "With no deadline crisis, decisions can be postponed."
Angel General Manager Mike Port, searching for a left-handed relief pitcher and a young catcher who would eventually succeed Bob Boone, said there will be as much effort and energy expended on trade talks, "but the question is how many deals will be consummated."
"We now have the luxury of being able to put things aside," he said. "We don't have to worry about acting prematurely.
"The trading deadline had to go. There's too many complexities involved with today's contracts. It was impossible to take care of all the details in a limited time."
Dodger Vice President Al Campanis, looking for a left-handed relief pitcher and a right-handed hitting center fielder--Seattle's Dave Henderson?--to platoon with Ken Landreaux, said it will be easier now.
"There's no rush," he said. "A lot of clubs may defer trading until they can see what their situation is in spring training.
"We now have the opportunity to see how the rookies develop in the spring and to check out the sore arms."
Campanis has a way of stirring up blockbuster trade talks, but the development of shortstop Mariano Duncan and the acquisition of third baseman Bill Madlock have diminished the Dodgers' needs.
"Last year at this time, we were in desperate need of a third baseman and probably would have given up some people for Buddy Bell if Texas hadn't played hardball," Campanis said.
"Now, we're in much better shape. If we don't make a deal, we haven't been hurt."
The playoff with St. Louis again seemed to expose the Dodgers' need for a left-handed relief pitcher, but Campanis now believes the Dodgers can fill it from within.
He cited Dennis Powell as one possibility and talked excitedly about 22-year-old Felix Tejeda, who is 7-1 in the Mexican Winter League.
"I don't care if we get another left-handed relief pitcher," Campanis said. "It's not our primary concern. I mean, we can wait until spring training. I want to see our relief pitching before rushing into a trade."
Likewise, Campanis believes he has a future center fielder in 21-year-old Jose Gonzalez, who would be making the jump from Double-A San Antonio if he were to make the club. Campanis said he would prefer giving Gonzalez a year at Albuquerque.
"I'd say that our chances of dealing for a top center fielder are nil," Campanis said. "I don't know of any club that's in position to give up one. Since Tommy (Lasorda) likes to platoon with Landreaux, we're looking for a right-handed hitter as a supplement (until Gonzalez is ready)."
Candy Maldonado was platooned with Landreaux last year, but Gonzalez now obviously has replaced him in Campanis' future book.
Campanis would not specify the clubs that might supply a right-handed-hitting center fielder, but Seattle is definitely one.
The teams have been talking about Seattle's interest in catcher Steve Yeager and the Dodgers' interest in left-handed relief pitcher Bill Wilkinson, who had a combined minor league record of 11-2 last year.
It's conceivable that the talks could be expanded to include Maldonado and Seattle's Henderson, who is on the block. Henderson, 27, hit .241 with 14 homers and 68 RBIs last year. He's not Rickey Henderson, whom the Dodgers pursued a year ago, but it's generally agreed that he has yet to reach his potential.
The Mariners are high on a young outfielder named Mickey Brantley, and would move left fielder Phil Bradley to center if Henderson goes in a deal not involving another center fielder.
The Angels, Port said, are not yet close to a trade.
"It seems like we're all looking for the same things," he said, alluding to a catcher and a left-handed relief pitcher.
"My attitude is that I'd rather leave here without having made a trade then to have made the wrong trade just for the sake of saying, 'Look, we made one.'
"I want to continue our recent progress."