DALLAS — Returning suddenly and unexpectedly to the free-agent market, the Dodgers presented a "take-it-or-leave-it" offer to relief ace Dave Righetti. The former New York Yankee's agent rejected it but said Saturday that he expects to get another crack at it.
"My own feelings are that we may see a renewal of this," Bill Goodstein said from his New York office. He alluded to what sources in the Dodger organization said was a two-year offer for more than $1 million a year.
The offer was made Friday by Executive Vice President Fred Claire before his departure for baseball's annual winter meetings here, where he said he will pursue a starting shortstop and an established relief pitcher.
The best bet may be a package deal for New York Mets shortstop Rafael Santana and relief pitcher Jesse Orosco, providing the Dodgers renew negotiations with Righetti or go after Houston Astros free-agent relief pitcher Dave Smith.
Claire would not discuss Righetti or any aspect of the free-agent picture Saturday, saying only that it was one avenue for improving the club.
Goodstein said that after two or three days of intensive negotiations, Claire made an offer based on a yes-or-no reply within "one or two hours."
"They were very up front, very creative," Goodstein said. "They made a genuine effort to put this together, but for reasons I can't understand, they were very determined to get it done yesterday. We just couldn't do it under the pressure of those parameters."
Goodstein acknowledged that Claire was determined to avoid joining a bidding war, the apparent reason for his deadline.
The agent said he will arrive here Monday, with 14 teams--including, of course, the Yankees-- having expressed interest in the 29-year-old Righetti, who earned $837,500 last season, when he registered 31 saves. The Angels, it was learned, are one of the 14 teams.
Goodstein said he thinks the Dodgers will resurface, making it 15.
"Dave feels no commitment to the Yankees," the agent insisted. "He's a California boy. He has a friendship with Tom Lasorda. He's been the save leader over the last four years, and you're taking about a club (the Dodgers) that has one of the poorest save records in baseball.
"Fred and I spent many hours on the phone this week. I don't think you can dissipate that this easily. I think they want to pursue some other things right now, but we'll probably have a cup of coffee again in Dallas."
The Dodgers, criticized widely last winter for failing to pursue free agent Tim Raines, have not ventured into free agency since their signings of Dave Goltz and Don Stanhouse in the winter of 1980.
Is this a change in philosophy? Claire refused comment. Can he satisfy the club's needs via trade? He said he was hopeful but not optimistic, citing his reluctance to trade pitchers Orel Hershiser or Bob Welch. A member of the Dodger organization who is familiar with the situation asked for anonymity and said:
"All anyone talks about are Welch and Hershiser. That tells you what people think about our other players. If something is going to happen in Dallas, it will have to come out of the blue because there's nothing close to being imminent. At this point, it looks like Mariano Duncan is going to be our shortstop again."
Duncan, recovering from knee surgery, is primarily playing second base in the Dominican Winter League. Claire said he has been encouraged by the reports, but Duncan apparently has to show more than physical stability. There seem to be lingering questions regarding attitude and dedication.
"If we don't make a trade, some positive things need to happen if we're going to turn it around," Claire acknowledged. He added, however, that it's conceivable the Dodgers may not be able to trade, that he didn't regard it as mandatory and that he wouldn't be forced into making a trade for the sake of trading or to satisfy fans' desires.
"If we trade, it will be only to benefit the team," he said, adding that to give up a Welch or Hershiser, to break up the club's strength, which is its rotation, didn't seem beneficial.
What are the Dodgers left to offer if Welch and Hershiser remain untouchables? The late-season purchase of second baseman Mike Sharperson and/or the continuing comeback of Duncan could leave Steve Sax vulnerable. Mike Marshall may be available, though his marketability seems questionable because of a susceptibility to injury and illness.
Claire said that he felt the problems of last season were behind Marshall and Pedro Guerrero, and that they can live and play together.
Would he trade either?
"We need as much offense as we can get," he said. "I'm not ruling out anyone, but if you remove Marshall and Guerrero, you remove two very important components."