Rewarded recently with a second shot at free agency, Kirk Gibson emerged with a reward of another kind Friday night.
He agreed to a three-year, $4.5-million contract with the Dodgers after his agent, Doug Baldwin, and the Dodgers' top echelon spent several hours ironing out modifications in two controversial contract clauses.
The bottom line is that Gibson, 31 in May, gave up a $1.3-million guarantee in the final year of a three-year contract with the Detroit Tigers to accept a $1-million signing bonus from the Dodgers and salaries of $1.5 million in 1988 and $1 million in both 1989 and '90.
He is expected to play left field in an outfield that will include another free-agent newcomer, Mike Davis, in right and a second-year Dodger, John Shelby, in center.
Gibson's acquisition is also expected to move either Pedro Guerrero or Mike Marshall to first base and would seem to leave one or the other expendable in pursuit, perhaps, of a pitcher or a third baseman.
How easy will it be to trade Marshall or Guerrero? Not very.
Guerrero, at 32, is guaranteed $1.7 million this year and will be eligible for free agency when the season ends.
Though an offensive threat, he is basically a one-dimensional player because of his suspect knees and glove. Guerrero himself recognizes his limitations, having asked to be moved to first base.
Marshall, having expressed willingness to play any position the Dodgers select, is thought to have limited market value because of a history of injury and illness.
Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda, contacted after a speaking engagement in Fort Worth Friday night, said he was elated about the addition of the competitive Gibson, confirmed that he would play left field and added that he now seems to have five players--Gibson, Shelby, Davis, Guerrero and Marshall--vying for four positions.
Can Lasorda find a place for all of them?
"Either I do or one of them goes to the bench," he said.
Or to another club?
"That's something Fred and I will have to talk about when I get home," he replied.
Executive Vice President Fred Claire refused to speculate on Marshall's or Guerrero's fate.
"I have no intention of making an immediate move," he said. "We have time to see how the pieces fit.
"Our goal has been to improve the club. Gibson should help us accomplish that. There have been few players who combine his power and speed.
"When you're coming off the type year we had, I'm not concerned about having too much talent and competition."
Gibson and six other players who were free agents in the winter of 1985-86 became free agents again after the recent ruling by arbitrator Tom Roberts, penalizing the owners for having acted in concert to restrict the movement of those players.
Each of the seven players affected by Roberts' judgment had until March 1 to sign with another team. If unsigned then, they could return to their former team under terms of their 1988 contract or remain a free agent, their former contract then being voided.
Speaking from his home in suburban Detroit Friday night, Gibson said the Roberts decision didn't generate a desire to move, and he really wanted to stay with the Tigers, who responded to Gibson's free agency by offering only a one-year extension.
"My first choice," said the former Michigan State football star, "was Detroit, hands down. We tried so many different (contract) scenarios, but the Tigers just weren't going to budge.
"I looked at my financial picture all day today, and as much as I tried to make Detroit work out, it didn't make sense. I was only fooling myself.
"The way L.A. structured the contract, I'd have been an idiot to turn it down. I made my choice and I'm happy with it. It's a new experience for us (Gibson and wife JoAnn have two children), and it'll only be as positive as we make it.
"I had good times and bad times in Detroit. Obviously, there are a lot of mixed emotions involved. I spent eight years with the Tigers and have grown up a lot.
"But I look on this as a challenge, a fresh start. We're all excited about it."
In the wake of the early-evening agreement between agent Baldwin and the Dodgers, Gibson said he had not yet had time to talk with Lasorda or any other Dodger official. He laughed and said:
"That's not necessary anyway. I know I'm going to play left field and hit third or fourth in the lineup. The contract alone shows what the Dodgers think of me."
Gibson received no other offers during the owners' 1985-86 free-agent freeze. He returned to Detroit with a three-year, $4.1-million contract. Baldwin has testified in the collusion hearings that the conspiracy cost Gibson another $3 million to $4 million.
He would now seem to have made up for that. In fact, considering that he made $2.7 million (including signing bonus) in his first two years under the most recent Detroit contract, the two free-agent forays will have netted him $7.2 million.