Camden Courier Post - November 12, 1980

Tug, Del not absolutely draft proof

 

By Ray W. Kelly of the Courier-Post

 

PHILADELPHIA – The baseball season ended weeks ago, but Tug McGraw is once more hanging by his fingernails. And Del Unser is figuring he will be coming through in the clutch.

 

Some things never change. At least, that's what many Phillies fans are hoping as tomorrow's free-agent draft draws near and the contract rights to both McGraw and Unser go up for bid.

 

Neither Tug, the premier relief pitcher in the major leagues last season, nor Del, the pinch-hitting hero in the Phils' march to a world championship, have the slightest desire to move their lockers out of Veterans Stadium.

 

It wouldn't hurt to worry a little about the situation, however. When the dollar signs start to fly, anything can happen. Especially if people start getting their feelings hurt.

 

McGraw, for example, was slightly disappointed (to say the least) in the Phillies front office when early negotiations resulted in Tug being offered a contract that was worth less per season than newcomer Sparky Lyle is reportedly receiving.

 

It wasn't just the money. It was also the principle of the thing – Tug's been the guy who has been coming through for the team; not only in 1980, but for most of the past six years.

 

"I thought their offer might reflect that contribution," said McGraw yesterday. "It's true. It did bother me that the offer wouldn't have even made me the highest paid guy in the bullpen.

 

"But the more I thought about it, I realized that when you're bargaining, initial offers are irrelevant. They've got to try to feel me out and try to get me for as little as possible

 

"Still, I wish their offer had shown some appreciation in what I'd done... even though I'm not taking it personally."

 

Lyle's contract, which came (at least in part) with him from the Texas Rangers, is estimated to be in the $375,000 per year range and will run at least until 1982.

 

"What happened is that the Phils gave me their bottom offer (less than Lyle) and I gave them my top figure," explained Tug, who didn't deny reports that he set his ceiling at $500,000 for each of four years.

 

"Here I am living on the edge again," he added with a laugh. "I thought I'd be able to relax after the season."

 

It hasn't been easy for Tug to take a breather, not with rumors flying fast and furious that the Phils are preparing to let him get away in the draft and then make a trade for either Bruce Sutter of the Chicago Cubs or Rollie Fingers of the San Diego Padres.

 

"I suspected that the Phils came in with a low initial figure on me in order to bargain for time," said Tug. "What I can't understand is that, if Sutter has a bad knee and Fingers is the same age as me, and the Phillies won't get either for less than I want to be paid, then what's the problem?"

 

McGraw already knows the answer. He even provided his own answer when he said, "It's a two-fold thing with the Phils. First, it's their philosophy about salary structure and how much the top starters should be paid and how much relief pitchers should make and how much other guys in other positions should make.

 

"But I look at it this way. We have the lowest paid superstar on the team and the highest paid superstar. I don't want to be either. I want to be in the middle. I don't believe one position is more valuable than another. I feel I've contributed as much to the success of the team as anyone else."

 

Both Tug and the Phillies decided to shelve negotiations until after the dust that tomorrow's reentry draft will stir up has settled. More than likely, the Phils want to see if the New York Mets aim their newfound financial resources at Padre Dave Winfield or a natural drawing card like Tug.

 

"Yes, I can make the move to New York if I have to do it," said McGraw. "I figure this will be the next to last contract I ever negotiate. I want it to be with the Phillies. But, it has got to be a good one.

 

"I realize the Phils have a hangup about paying any pitcher on the team more than Steve Carlton (whose $400,000 per year contract will no doubt be renegotiated). Still, I want to come away feeling the Phillies appreciate what I've done.

 

"Of course, the figure I gave the Phillies doesn't apply to other clubs. If I move, so do the numbers… upward."

 

Unser, on the other hand, is simply hoping that a dozen teams draft him and then forget to make him an offer. It happened before and it shook him up considerably.

 

All Del is looking for in the draft is for the other teams to set some sort of value on him, thereby giving him leverage in his future talks with the Phillies.

 

"I don't expect the multitudes to knock down my door," he said with a chuckle from his California home. 'I'm not balking at anything or trying to make a killing.

 

"But I had good seasons back-to-back for the Phils and never said a word about more money. It has been a good relationship for both of us and I want to stay with a winning team in a city where I have many friends. I guess the Phils know that. I hope they don't use it against me. they know I want to stay."

 

The Phillies know Del's feelings. Sill, they'd better be careful that another team doesn't come around and offer Unser a combination of money and more playing time. He might be tempted if the team is in the right city.

 

“I’d have to think twice if a team with a ballpark that's tailored to my style of hitting, such as Yankee Stadium, made me an offer. Or, if it was an up-and-coming team in a town near my home... which is Oakland or San Francisco... or near my folks, which is St. Louis... or, if I got an offer that ran for three or four years... I mean, I'd have to think about it.

 

"Still, I've got to think that the Phillies have gotten used to having Del Unser come through for them. I'm hoping they don't forget."

 

So is McGraw. But, when it comes to money, it's not a case of what you did for me yesterday. It is: what are you going to do for me tomorrow?

Bidding begins tomorrow in baseball’s auction

 

NEW YORK – Baseball's annual auction begins tomorrow with the free agent draft and, if tradition holds, several players soon will become rich men.

 

The Atlanta Braves, for instance, plan to select six or seven outfielders and pitchers in the re-entry draft, including perhaps outfielders Dave Winfield of San Diego and Claudell Washington of the New York Mets, plus pitchers Don Sutton of Los Angeles, Bill Travers and Bill Castro of Milwaukee and Dan Spillner of Cleveland.

 

According to one account, Atlanta will draft Winfield, Sutton and Washington in the first three rounds, then Travers, Castro and Spillner if they are available.

 

"WE'LL MAKE a serious bid initially for our first three selections," Atlanta Executive Vice President Al Thornwell said. "We'll see how we're doing with them. If it looks like we're going to be knocked out of the box, we might make a big bid for one of the others we select."

 

The Braves, who have the 14th pick in each round, have been in contact with Winfield, Sutton and Washington. Winfield and Sutton have visited with owner Ted Turner in Atlanta.

 

There is a considerable amount of strategy involved in the event, most of it centered around Winfield. With each of the 48 free agents available limited to 13 teams, some premium players could be closed out early.

 

That is the problem facing the New York Yankees, who are anxious to get into the bidding for the slugging Winfield, the most glamorous name in the draft. The Yankees had baseball's best record last season with 103 victories, and therefore have the 26th and final pick in each round of the draft. That means 25 teams – including the Braves – will have a shot at picking Winfield before New York.

 

WINFIELD HAS written to more than a dozen teams, advising them that he has no desire to play for them and suggesting that they not waste a draft pick on him. But many baseball people suspect some devious intentions in the letter, suggesting it is an attempt on the slugger's part to make sure he's still available when the Yankees get their turn in the draft.

 

Only once in four previous drafts has a player reached his 13-team limit in the first round. That happened last year to pitcher Dave Goltz who signed with Los Angeles.

 

Winfield is certain of being selected by one New York team. The Mets own the third choice in the draft following the Chicago Cubs and Seattle Mariners and have expressed every bit as much interest in the slugger as the Yankees.

 

In fact, Fred Wilpon, president and chief operating officer of the Mets, thinks he may even have a small edge when the bid ding begins. When Wilpon met Winfield and the player's agent, Al Frohman, there was an inkling of recognition.

 

THEY discovered they had grown up in the same section of Brooklyn, N.Y., and that, in fact, there even had been a business relationship between their families. Wilpon 's father was a funeral director in the old neighborhood and Frohman's father was a rabbi who often conducted services in the chapel.

 

A thin connection, to be sure, but at this stage, teams will grasp at any thread which might provide an inroad to a desirable free agent. It's part of the re-entry routine.