Jack Morris will meet with the Blue Jays today, giving Toronto the first chance to sign the Most Valuable Player of the World Series.
"I think it's really down to Toronto and Boston, both of which are acceptable alternatives, even though it's not his first choice," Morris' agent, Richard Moss, said late Monday from his home in Los Angeles.
Morris, the highest-paid pitcher of 1991 at $3.7 million, declined to exercise his $3.65 million option with the Minnesota Twins, his hometown team. That move came a day after the seventh game of the World Series, when he pitched 10 shutout innings in Minnesota's 1-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves.
If Toronto doesn't make an offer agreeable to Morris, the pitcher and Moss will meet tomorrow with Boston. In the meantime, the Red Sox have held off making an offer to Frank Viola, who faces tomorrow's midnight deadline to accept or reject a salary arbitration offer from the New York Mets, his 1991 club.
"Scheduling these meetings for Wednesday and Thursday was our suggestion, so nobody would be left out in the cold," Moss said. "If these clubs have a second choice, and that player has an alternative, that makes Thursday night significant. We wanted to clarify it before then."
Minnesota offered to raise Morris' 1992 salary, but not by as much as the pitcher wanted. Twins general manager Andy MacPhail, anticipating a multimillion contract extension for Kirby Puckett, said he couldn't afford to go higher.
"They've made it pretty clear that they've gone as far as they can," Moss said. "They know it's not satisfactory to Jack, and it's not where Jack belongs.
"They're arguing that they have to take care of Kirby. They're arguing the new party line that they're a small-market club and they can't afford two players at that level."
Morris, a 36-year-old right-hander, was 18-12 with a 3.43 ERA last season, 2-0 in the AL playoffs and 2-0 in the World Series.
Viola, a 31-year-old left-hander, slumped to 13-15 last season with the Mets. His agent, Craig Fenech, has told the Red Sox he may not wait for Boston to make an offer.
* PADRES: The club dropped out of the bidding for free-agent outfielder Danny Tartabull, saying it couldn't afford his request for a five-year contract at more than $4 million per season.
* METS: The club is thinking about making an offer to second baseman Willie Randolph.
Mets general manager Al Harazin said he hopes to begin discussions with a free-agent infielder before Christmas.
Harazin said Dave Anderson, Randy Ready, Curtis Wilkerson, Al Newman and former Met Tim Teufel were among the players he was considering.
* TWINS: Bob Kipper, a 27-year-old reliever who left the Pirateto become a free agent, agreed to a $1 million, one-year contract.
Kipper was 2-2 with a 4.65 ERA in 52 relief appearances last season. He was 5-2 in 1990 with a 3.02 ERA and three saves.