Clemens passed up 'real nice' O's offer Jays pitcher says decision involved more than money

February 25, 1997|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Free-agent right-hander Roger Clemens did give an offer from the Orioles serious consideration before he signed a record three-year, $24.75 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays.

"The Orioles made me a real nice offer and their team looked good," Clemens said. "I also got some real nice offers from teams in the other league."

The bidding eventually came down to the Blue Jays, Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees before Clemens became the highest-paid pitcher in history with an annual salary of $8.25 million, but he insists his decision wasn't entirely based on money.

"I think, after I signed, everybody thought it came down to dollars, but me and my family already are set," he said. "I could have walked away from baseball last year. I'm in search of a championship.

"In all the meetings we had [with interested teams], we never talked about dollars. My agents took care of that stuff when I wasn't around. What we talked about was the direction of the team."

The Blue Jays didn't necessarily offer Clemens the best chance to win the World Series, but he apparently liked the idea that he might make the difference on a club that wasn't already one of the top contenders. The Yankees are coming off a World Series title and are a favorite to return to the playoffs. The Orioles and Indians were in the playoffs last year and seem well-configured to get back.

Toronto got better when general manager Gord Ash pulled off a giant deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates in November and signed free-agent catcher Benito Santiago in December, but it was the arrival of Clemens that made the baseball world stand up and take notice.

"I think it was obvious what they were trying to do -- get on an upswing," Clemens said. "I looked at the lineup and who my teammates were going to be, and Mr. Beeston [club president Paul Beeston] told me how they were going to improve. That was a big factor. They are improving.

"I've seen in the past where they've gotten to a point in the middle of the season and gone out and gotten someone they needed. I've been in situations [in Boston] where you're in position to win in July and you just have to hang on and hope. Then, if you do win, you get to the playoffs and you're overmatched."

Oddly enough, the Blue Jays' reputation for bold action late in the season was built by now-Orioles GM Pat Gillick, who was one of the suitors that Clemens spurned to sign with Toronto.

Pub Date: 2/25/97

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