DALLAS — The Angels' plan to move Johnny Ray to left field, allowing Mark McLemore to return to second base, faces a significant hurdle.
"I think Johnny Ray can play left field and Johnny Ray believes he can, but we're not going to risk his future employment on this little experiment," Ray's agent, Tom Selakovich, said in an interview at baseball's winter meetings Tuesday.
Selakovich said that Ray is against making the move without a contract extension.
He said that he had told Angel executive vice president Mike Port on Tuesday morning.
"Our feeling is that the Angels should either trade us or extend Johnny's contract," Selakovich said.
Asked his reaction, Port cited club policy and said: "I'm not inclined to extend Johnny Ray's contract at this time. I'm trying to figure out a way to win more games for the 2.5 million people we draw. We've looked on this (move) as a way to help do it."
Ray, acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates Aug. 29, will be in the last year of a multi-year contract in 1988 and will be eligible for free agency or arbitration when the season ends.
Selakovich said that if Ray is forced into arbitration or the "clouded market" as an outfielder, he'll have had only the one year of statistics to use as a comparative bargaining tool.
"Outfielders are generally power hitters or guys who steal a lot of bases," Selakovich said. "Johnny doesn't hit home runs or steal bases. How would you compare his stats to an Andre Dawson or George Bell?
"He's been a team player for six years, but the time comes when you have to look after your own butt. He deserves some form of security, consideration, at least.
"I mean, they're asking us to accommodate a rookie who was benched as a disappointment.
"It was Johnny Ray who was No. 1 in the Elias (statistical) rankings of second basemen (this year).
"It was Johnny Ray who set a record (for second basemen) with only five errors in 1986.
"It was Johnny Ray who averaged 30 doubles a year and hit in 27 of his 30 games with the Angels and .273 with the Pirates."
Selakovich said he would hope to resolve this now, avoiding a possible spring training confrontation.
"I can't tell you he would refuse to go to left field because that would be grounds for suspension," the agent said. "I can tell you he wouldn't be happy. I'm sure that if it's still this way in spring training he would go to (Manager) Gene Mauch and say, 'I don't want to play left field and this is the reason why.' "
Asked if he plans future meetings with Selakovich, Port reflected on club policy and said he hated to paint every case with the same brush, but then added: "I have nothing to talk to him about."