Let's make a draft deal in full swing Players, clubs opt for nearly anything

November 16, 1992|By Murray Chass | Murray Chass,New York Times

The Montreal Expos bought Tim Wallach's house for $180,000 Canadian (about $143,000 American) to induce him to waive his place on their protected list for tomorrow's expansion draft. And they told him he still could live in it while he plays for them. The Expos also will give Wallach $450,000 if he is selected by the Colorado Rockies or the Florida Marlins.

The Oakland Athletics opened two spots on their protected list by agreeing to give Bob Welch and Dave Henderson $1 million each if they are drafted. Bob Walk, whose status also required him to be protected unless he waived that right, will receive $150,000 if he is chosen.

The Orioles have agreed to pay some of Glenn Davis' doctors' bills as well as the cost of a personal conditioning coach. If he is drafted, they also will pay him $250,000.

The Chicago White Sox didn't buy Carlton Fisk's house to get him to agree not to be on their protected list. Nor will they pay any of his bills or any money if he is selected. They just threatened to release him if he didn't agree.

This is baseball's first expansion draft in 16 years, and those inducements are a first. That's because the previous drafts were unencumbered by no-trade rights granted in the collective bargaining agreement or individual contracts.

It is also a first that the two new National League teams will draft players from all major-league teams, not just the teams in their league. That added advantage, however, does not guarantee that the Rockies and the Marlins will wind up with a better collection of players ready for the majors than previous expansion teams.

If they want to spend tons of money, the new kids on the block could sign expensive free agents, such as Barry Bonds and Kirby Puckett, and draft high-priced players, such as Danny Tartabull and Vince Coleman (please draft Coleman, the Mets implore). But they don't want to spend like that. The Rockies and the Marlins are looking at payrolls in the $12 million range, at the most.

They have a wide assortment of players to choose from, a pool totaling around 2,500.

They can draft players to trade them. Indeed, since the expansion clubs received the 15-man protected lists of the 26 clubs last Monday, their general managers, Bob Gebhard of the Rockies and Dave Dombrowski of the Marlins, have been calling other general managers asking if they have any interest in players who have been exposed to the draft.

Gebhard and Dombrowski have geared each group of unprotected players to a club's needs, offering to draft a specific player whom they would then trade for a player or two of their liking. In composing their protected lists, general managers were aware that a player they wanted to leave unprotected because he might not be attractive to an expansion club could wind up being lost anyway.

"We knew going in there would be these kinds of decisions being made," said Jerry Walker of the Detroit Tigers. "The strategy of the whole thing from the start has been uncertain because you didn't know what those clubs were going to do. They didn't know what they were going to do."

Gebhard acknowledged talking to the general managers of the 26 existing clubs about possible trades and said he has found some definite possibilities.

Explaining the trade strategy, the Rockies general manager said: "A club may have someone on their 15-man protected list I like. If I could draft a good-enough player for them, if they have dollars to spend on a certain type of player who might have appeal to them but not to me, I could draft him and trade him to them for the player on their protected list that I like."

Dombrowski said that he and his staff also have talked daily with clubs about possible trades, adding that major players could be swapped tomorrow. One could be Lee Smith, the venerable relief pitcher, whom St. Louis has left exposed. An official of another club said he had heard that the Marlins were talking to Atlanta about drafting Smith and trading him to the Braves, who need a closer.

The disclosure of the protected lists also has enabled general managers to call the expansion clubs proposing trades for players not on the lists.

"I wouldn't be surprised if clubs are calling us and the Rockies trying to make the best deal that they can," Dombrowski said. "It's possible that a club could have deals with both teams and would make it with the team that drafted the player they want. We don't have any deals in place at this point, but we have continued to talk to people and our conversations have intensified."

If trades are made, they could not be announced officially until after the draft because rosters are frozen until the draft ends. The only moves teams can make before the draft is signing free agents, who would not have to be protected from the draft because the expansion teams would have had an opportunity to sign them.

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