ROSEMONT, ILL. — TC ROSEMONT, Ill. -- The 26 major-league clubs appear to be very close to an agreement with the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues that would change the way the minor leagues are financed but leave the current operating format basically unchanged.
MLB negotiator Bill Murray and Pittsburgh Pirates owner Carl Barger announced at a press briefing yesterday the two sides had reached the stage where they were "dotting the i's and crossing the t's" in preparation for a ratification vote on a new Professional Baseball Agreement (PBA).
The major points of the proposed agreement were presented to major-league general managers and farm directors at a meeting yesterday at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare, where MLB is holding its half of the annual winter meetings. The major-league negotiators said that the proposal was concurrently being presented to the member clubs of the NAPBL in Los Angeles.
"Both sides have reached out to set aside their own individual desires to try and reach an agreement," Barger said. "The National Association is presenting this to its members. They are confident and I am confident that this will be done."
The upbeat tone of the briefing was much in contrast to the talk coming out of the commissioner's office just a week ago, when Murray indicated that the major leagues were preparing to go forward with a contingency plan that would have set up an entirely new minor-league system.
Murray said yesterday that the threat was not an idle one -- and that contingency plans remain if the agreement is not finalized -- but it appears that a new seven-year PBA will be signed within the next two weeks.
The major-league negotiators entered the negotiations hoping to reduce the cost of administering the minor leagues, but emerged with a tentative contract that they claim will cost them more money than before.
"Everyone has their Christmas list and we had ours," Barger said. "Did we want [to reduce costs]? Yes. Do we wish we had gotten that. Yes. But there had to be a give and take."
The tentative agreement calls for National Association clubs to pick up more of their travel expenses, but MLB will pay all equipment costs and assume most of the cost relating to minor-league umpires, including a substantial increase in salaries and benefits.
There also are provisions for decreasing the maximum number of games scheduled at each minor-league level and assurances that the commissioner of baseball will not arbitrarily intervene in minor-league business.
The "commissioner control issue" was considered a major obstacle by the NAPBL, which apparently felt that MLB was demanding too much control over minor-league operations. Murray claims that control was not the objective of major-league ownership, but that the agreement needed to be restructured to allow MLB to oversee its player personnel investment.
* Agent Jim Turner, who represents free agent Franklin Stubbs, said he would be meeting with Baltimore Orioles officials today to continue contract negotiations.
Turner denied a rumor that Stubbs is ready to sign with another club and is just giving the Orioles a chance to overbid the tentative contract.
"I don't know of anything like that," Turner said, "but I will be talking to the Orioles tomorrow."
* Orioles general manager Roland Hemond confirmed at an afternoon press briefing that he would meet today with Turner and also with Ron Shapiro, who represents left-hander Matt Young.
* The Minnesota Twins announced yesterday that they have given right-hander Roy Smith his outright release. Smith was 5-10 with a 4.81 ERA for the Twins in 1990.
The release of Smith reduces the Twins roster to 39, leaving room for one selection in today's Rule V draft.
* The Orioles are expected to select one player in the Rule V draft. Baltimore chooses 10th. The draft order is determined by inverse order of finish in each league, with teams from each league choosing alternately.
Though the Orioles' 40-man roster is full, the club can release a player before the draft to make room for its selection.
"We don't know positively that we will select anyone," Hemond said. "There are some players out there that create some interest."
If the Orioles select a player, he must remain on the 25-man major-league roster for the entire 1991 season or be offered back to his original club for half the $50,000 draft price. Last year's choice, Marty Brown, did not remain with the Orioles all year, but was not reclaimed by the Cincinnati Reds. He recently was traded to the Cleveland Indians.