Bargain basement: New teams draft with eye on bottom line

November 19, 1992|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

After paying $95 million each for the privilege of trying to avoid 100 losses, the Colorado Rockies and Florida Marlins took the economic approach.

Maybe the National League's two expansion teams will get involved in the free-agent market, but if the first steps of their track record are any indication, it will be with extreme caution.

After Tuesday's expansion draft, it appeared that the Rockies were better prepared for the immediate future, but the Marlins had the best hopes for the long haul. But if you're judging by the size of the contracts inherited, you wouldn't be able to separate the two with a dollar sign.

Of the 72 players picked from the 26 established teams, only four had contracts that paid more than $500,000 last year.

And before the night was over, two of the high-salaried players, former Boston Red Sox second baseman Jody Reed ($1.6 million) and former Pittsburgh Pirates left-hander Danny Jackson ($2.425 million) were traded. That left the Marlins with the only high-ticket performers in the draft -- two former California Angels, reliever Bryan Harvey ($3.125 million) and outfielder Junior Felix ($590,000).

Though it's very early to assess the new rosters, Colorado manager Don Baylor, an ex-Oriole, said he came away satisfied.

"My hope going into the draft was that we'd get some experience," said Baylor. "I wanted some players who could walk in and play right away.

"Basically, our blueprint was to take some young guys, and then add on with some veterans. I think we did that. I know it's exciting to think about [ex-Pirate] Alex Cole in center field."

Baylor also was instrumental in engineering a trade of Kevin Reimer (selected from the Texas Rangers) for Dante Bichette, an outfielder with whom he was familiar from his days as a coach with the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Rockies also took (with the third pick overall) New York Yankees third baseman Charlie Hayes, perhaps the best position player taken in the draft. In addition, the day before, they signed first baseman Andres Galarraga as a free agent. He's another player well known to Baylor, who was Galarraga's hitting coach at St. Louis last year.

From the outset, the Marlins didn't try to hide that they were in the draft to hunt for potential. Club president Carl Barger admitted as much shortly after Florida plucked outfielder Nigel Wilson out of the Toronto Blue Jays organization.

"We didn't take him expecting that he would be our left fielder on opening day next year," said Barger. "We took him because he was the best athlete in the draft and because we think he has unlimited potential for the future."

After Wilson and Montreal Expos second baseman Bret Barberie (a player the Orioles tried to get for Randy Milligan a year ago), the Marlins decided to build their future around pitching. Of their 13 second-round picks, including the final eight (the last of which was the Orioles' Richie Lewis), 10 were pitchers.

Before it was over, 21 of Florida's 36 picks were pitchers. Then they traded Jackson for two more, giving them 22, a very good base from which to trade. There will be more than one established team calling long distance to Florida.

Price clubs

Five highest salaries among players selected by the Marlins and Rockies (not counting Danny Jackson or Jody Reed, who were traded):

Bryan Harvey, Fla... .. .. ..$3,125,000

Junior Felix, Fla... .. .. .. .$590,000

Jack Armstrong, Fla... .. .. ..$400,000

Joe Girardi, Colo... .. .. .. .$300,000

Charlie Hayes, Colo... .. .. ..$280,000

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