Philadelphia Inquirer - November 13, 1980

Free agents go on block

 

By the Associated Press

 

Baseball's re-entry draft will be held today with 48 free agents – including a pair from the world champion Phillies – available for the major league's fifth such draft.

 

The Philiies Tug McGraw, one of baseball's best relievers last season, will likely produce a great deal of interest. Reserve Del Unser, who sparked the Phillies to several late-season and postseason wins with clutch pinch hits, is also eligible to be drafted.

 

But Dave Winfield, 29, the star outfielder whose contract talks with the San Diego Padres bogged down with his request for $13 million over 10 years, is probably the featured attraction in this show. He's already made headlines by chatting with prospective employers and notifying some would-be bidders that they are off his list.

 

In the background has been talk of a possible conspiracy to keep George Steinbrenner, free-spending owner of the New York Yankees, away from Winfield. Because the Yankees had the best record in baseball last season, they pick last among the 26 teams on each round. The Chicago Cubs have the first choice.

 

A player can be selected by a maximum of 12 teams, plus his old team, and there is the possibility that Winfield's eligibility could be exhausted before the Yankees pick. However, Winfield's original asking price and his letter to more than a dozen teams asking that they not draft him could scare off enough clubs and give Steinbrenner a shot. Besides, in the first four drafts, only pitcher Dave Goltz has been selected by 13 clubs in the opening round.

 

Winfield's agent already has mentioned lawsuits if the Yankees don't have a chance to get their man. In the past, what Steinbrenner has wanted, he's gotten, building four division winners in five seasons with the help of free-agent acquisitions Reggie Jackson, Rich Gossage, Tommy John, Rudy May and Bob Watson.

 

Some of the other teams who have been courting Winfield include the Atlanta Braves, Houston Astros and New York Mets, whose new ownership has been promising a much more aggressive posture on free agents.

 

Winfield, Claudell Washington of the Mets and Ron LeFlore, the base-stealing star of the Montreal Expos, are the best of the 13 outfielders available. Monday night, Dusty Baker withdrew himself from the auction by signing a five-year contract for close to $4 million with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

 

There also will be 14 pitchers in addition to McGraw, nine catchers and 11 infielders available. Other top names eligible include catcher Dar-rell Porter of the American-league champion Kansas City Royals, pitcher Don Sutton of the Dodgers, first baseman-designated hitter Rusty Staub of the Texas Rangers and third baseman Roy Howell of the Toronto Blue Jays.

 

 

A team that signs a free agent must compensate the player's former team with a draft choice in the next year's amateur selection – one reason why the owners made compensation the key issue of the contract negotiations earlier this year. The owners don't like the economics of receiving what they consider inadequate compensation for losing key players.