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Dodgers Renew Pursuit of Free Agent Righetti

December 18, 1987|SCOTT HOWARD-COOPER | Times Staff Writer

The Dodgers, authors of a take-it-or-leave-it offer to Dave Righetti two weeks ago, have resumed negotiations with the free-agent pitcher.

Talks between Dodger Executive Vice President Fred Claire, Dodger attorney Sam Fernandez and Righetti's attorney, Bill Goodstein, began early Wednesday afternoon and lasted until 10 that night. The pitcher's interest remained strong in the Dodgers Thursday, when Goodstein revealed that the Angels were also among Righetti's seven finalists.

"The Dodgers are very much in it," Goodstein said Thursday night from his office in New York. "They have a tremendous amount of interest in him."

It remains to be seen, however, if the Dodgers have enough to meet the contract demands. The 29-year-old left-hander, whose 137 saves are the best in the majors over the last four years, is reportedly seeking a three-year deal worth about $4.5 million, but the Dodgers are thinking more along the lines of a two-year contract. Righetti earned $837,500 with the New York Yankees last season.

"We don't have a proposal on the table yet, and that is more my fault because Fred has been persistent and efficient," Goodstein said. "I've been kind of swarmed under with the Japan issue, which we wanted to take care of first."

That much was resolved Thursday when the Tokyo Giants were dropped from consideration, although Goodstein said if Righetti goes for a one-year contract this season, the Japanese team would be an option for 1989.

His seven-year career with the Yankees, which includes being named rookie of the year in 1981, has been spent as both a starter and a reliever.

With the recent trade that sent starter Bob Welch to the Oakland Athletics, and brought Jesse Orosco, a left-handed reliever, and Jay Howell, a right-handed reliever, to the Dodgers, Righetti could fit into the starting rotation.

One factor in the Dodgers' favor is Righetti's good relationship with Manager Tom Lasorda. Another is the attraction of joining a staff that includes Fernando Valenzuela and good friends Orel Hershiser and Orosco.

And the Angels' position?

"I've had some interesting conversations with (General Manager) Mike Port in the last day or two and suspect those will become more fruitful soon," Goodstein said.

Port refused comment Thursday night on possible dealings with Righetti and again said that re-signing Mike Witt, the Angels' free-agent pitcher, is the priority.

The clock is another factor. Saturday night is the deadline for free agents to accept arbitration with their previous clubs, and if Righetti does not get a satisfactory offer by then, it appears he may go to arbitration and try free agency in 1989.

Righetti, a San Jose resident and graduate of San Jose City College, is also negotiating with Seattle, Texas, Cleveland, San Francisco and Oakland.

Two weeks ago, the Dodgers almost ended their chase before it started. Trying to get a jump on the competition and bypass a bidding war, they offered Righetti a two-year deal for more than $1 million a year, a source said. Righetti, coming off a 31-save season for the fourth-place Yankees, declined the deal.

"My own feelings are that we may see a renewal of this," Goodstein said Dec. 5. He was right.

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