DALLAS — With four teams impatiently waiting for answers, the Dodgers were still alive late Wednesday night in what had become a complicated search for a shortstop and a relief pitcher.
During the course of a long day and night at the winter baseball meetings, the Oakland Athletics' Alfredo Griffin had seemed to supplant the New York Mets' Rafael Santana and the Toronto Blue Jays' Manny Lee as the shortstop that the Dodgers most covet, with the A's, Mets and Blue Jays all pursuing Bob Welch.
Of even more interest, however, it was learned that the Dodgers were giving serious consideration to a Detroit Tigers offer of left fielder Kirk Gibson for outfielder-first baseman Pedro Guerrero.
While refusing to identify players and teams, Dodger Vice President Fred Claire was asked if he was considering more than the acquisition of a shortstop and a relief pitcher.
"I can't be specific," he said, "but we have more than one consideration available to us."
It was learned, in fact, that the Dodgers had received permission from the Tigers to talk directly with Gibson concerning his possible desire to extend a contract that expires after the 1988 season, but hadn't done that as of late Wednesday night.
The Tigers have also offered Gibson to the New York Yankees for Dave Winfield, but Winfield's contract complications seem to leave Guerrero as a more viable possibility.
The Dodgers' interest can be measured by the fact that club President Peter O'Malley, whose obligations here ended with a Wednesday morning owners' meeting, stayed through the night, apparently to assist Claire and his staff in responding to technicalities in the Gibson-Guerrero negotiations.
Of those technicalities, the most significant is this:
Gibson, a free agent in the winter of 1985 and '86, when the owners were found guilty of collusion, could be made a free agent again or judged entitled to financial remuneration, depending on an arbitrator's ruling in the current remedy phase.
The Dodgers, according to sources, are seeking an understanding of the various possibilities before commiting to the blockbuster proposition.
Gibson is 31, will make $1.3 million next year and reportedly told the Tigers recently that it might be time for him to move on. He batted .277 last season with 24 home runs, 79 runs batted in and 26 stolen bases.
That speed, coupled with acknowledged defensive ability, is apparently what interests the Dodgers, who may also remain determined to break up Guerrero and Mike Marshall, despite statements to the contrary.
Guerrero is 31, will make $1.7 million next year and enjoyed a strong season in his return from the debilitating leg injury of 1986.
He batted .338 with 27 homers and 89 RBIs, but his persistently sore knees leave him likely to play first base for the Dodgers, who may feel that they will never have a better opportunity to deal him, particularly in exchange for a comparable but physically sounder offensive threat.
With no trading deadline involved, the Gibson-Guerrero considerations took the Dodgers past midnight here, as did their talks for a shortstop and relief pitcher.
A number of clubs weren't happy about it, claiming Claire and staff seemed incapable of making a decision.
"They're holding up four or five clubs," a top Oakland executive said.
Said his counterpart with the Mets: "Who's running that airline? One minute they seem to say yes, the next it's no. We offered them three major league players. I don't think they can do better, but the deal in its original state is dead. We're trying to bring it back now in an altered state."
The original deal would have sent Santana, relief pitcher Jesse Orosco and outfielder Mookie Wilson to the Dodgers for Welch.
The Dodgers, however, apparently told the Mets Wednesday night that while still interested in Orosco and Wilson, they were no longer interested in Santana and that they should try to create a three-way trade involving the A's and Griffin.
There were then rumors of a deal that would have sent Santana and pitcher John Mitchell to the A's for Griffin and a prospect, the Mets then shipping Griffin, Orosco and Wilson to the Dodgers for Welch.
However, an A's executive said his club refused to join a three-way deal that would send Welch to the Mets because the A's also want Welch and feel they have the "pivotal chip" in Griffin.
The A's, he said, have offered the Dodgers a variety of options with Griffin, including their leading relief pitcher of last year, Jay Howell, who is coming off second-half surgery for the removal of bone chips in his elbow.
Said the A's executive: "We're willing to give the Dodgers enough players and alternatives to compensate for the risk that Howell may represent."
Griffin, too, is something of a physical risk because of a thumb injury suffered in September. He was examined by Dr. Herbert Stark in Los Angeles Tuesday and fitted with a cast that he will wear for four or five weeks. Dr. Stark told the A's that surgery was not required and that Griffin should be ready for the start of spring training.
On top of all this, the Blue Jays still have their offer of Lee and Dave Stieb on the table, but it is not clear as to how willing they are to replace the high salaried and physically suspect Stieb with John Cerutti, as the Dodgers apparently wish.
"Everything of a significant nature that we are trying to do is still alive," Claire said, adding that he planned to stay through Thursday, though the meetings have officially ended.