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Baseball / Ross Newhan : Lopes or Royster Might Return to Dodgers

November 16, 1986|Ross Newhan

You can't go home again? Maybe you can. The agent for ex-Dodgers Jerry Royster and Davey Lopes is trying to convince the club that the versatile utilitymen, both free agents, would fill a need.

The reaction of Dodger Vice President Al Campanis?

"Let's put it this way," San Diego attorney Tony Attanasio said, "Al doesn't disagree with me. I'm hopeful that in time there will be some movement."

While insisting they will not pay major money for a free agent of Tim Raines' caliber, the Dodgers have not shut the door on free agents of a more economical nature.

Royster, who batted .257 in 118 games with San Diego last year, became a free agent when the Padres bought out his contract for $50,000 rather than exercise an option that would have paid him $350,000 next year.

Lopes, who batted .235 in 37 games following his acquisition by Houston from the Chicago Cubs and .275 in 96 games overall, is not expected to re-sign with the Astros. He earned $465,000 in salary and bonuses last season.

The Dodgers, of course, will not sign both, but improving the bench in the wake of an injury-marred season is a priority, particularly since Enos Cabell has been told he will not be re-signed and Bill Russell is now a coach.

At this point, Dave Anderson represents the only infield versatility coming off the bench, though Campanis is intrigued by a new member of the 40-man roster, Jon Debus, a first baseman-third baseman-catcher up from San Antonio.

The problem is that the Dodgers already have some protection at two of those positions: Jeff Hamilton and Bill Madlock will contend at third base, with the possibility that Madlock could move to first base, where Franklin Stubbs, Greg Brock, Larry See, Len Matuszek and maybe even Mike Marshall, depending on his back, and Pedro Guerrero, depending on his leg, have already taken numbers.

The lure of Lopes and Royster, of course, is that they can play virtually anywhere in the infield or outfield, though Lopes, at 40, showed some limitations amid the dimensions and synthetic surface of the Astrodome.

The bottom line will be just that: In other words, even the modestly priced Lopes and Royster don't have a chance if the Dodgers are convinced they have minimally salaried farm products capable of doing the same job.

Moving On: Attanasio said he has received assurances from Campanis that an attempt is being made to trade Brock, with the hope being that it will be done before baseball's winter meetings end in Miami Dec. 12. Brock's preference, Attanasio said, is Oakland, Seattle, Atlanta or Detroit, but there is a bottom line of another kind here. The Dodgers' paramount need is for a proven stopper or setup man in the bullpen and/or a center fielder. Does Brock carry the best market value or does Franklin Stubbs? Campanis is still looking for an answer.

Just Dreamin': Say that the Dodgers were to finally realize what Raines might mean in center field and that Hamilton moved Madlock to first base and that Guerrero and Marshall were to come up to next season 100% sound, how about this opening day lineup?: Raines, CF; Steve Sax, 2B; Madlock, 1B; Guerrero, LF; Marshall, RF; Mike Scioscia, C; Hamilton, 3B, and Mariano Duncan, SS.

Cold War: The owners' alleged free-agent conspiracy of last winter was characterized by the refusal to give contracts of longer than three years. Now there's an apparent limit of two years on contract offers to pitchers. The ultimate goal seems to be a return to one-year contracts devoid of incentive or bonus provisions. Or as Jack Morris, the Detroit Tigers' free-agent pitcher, said the other day: "This is a return to 1950 baseball." Asked if he would be willing to test the market beyond Jan. 8, the last day a free agent may sign with his own club until May and the date on which Kirk Gibson and Donnie Moore capitulated last year, Morris said: "I'm the type character who'll take a risk. Others (free agents before him) have taken risks for me."

Cold War II: Morris made $850,000 last season and has rejected a reported Detroit offer of $2.5 million for two years. It's as absurd to compare that to 1950 baseball as it is for the owners to plead poverty when the Cleveland Indians can sell for a whopping $34 million just two years after the Minnesota Twins sold for a whopping $48 million.

House Call: The New York Mets' management invited in a troubled Dwight Gooden last week and reportedly told him, "Relax, be yourself, you have our support." Winless in the World Series after a comparatively disappointing season in which he won 17 games, Gooden has recently been confronted by drug rumors, revealed he is the father of an eight-month-old son through a relationship that he has since broken off, and last week backed out of a marriage to Carlene Pearson on the reported eve of the wedding. He is even being hammered by TV's David Letterman, who suggested that Met fans hang a "K" on Miss Pearson's front door.

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