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Wiggins a Padre for Now : But Ballclub Can Still Unload Him

Times Staff Writer

Baseball’s trading deadline prompted no deals Saturday, so Alan Wiggins still belonged to the Padres, even though the Padres still preferred that he belong to someone else.

But wait. This deadline isn’t really a deadline. The Padres, under league rules, can still trade Wiggins anytime they wish to a National League team. And, after Wiggins clears waivers this week (and he almost certainly will), they can even trade him to the American League’s Baltimore Orioles, who tried and failed to acquire Wiggins this weekend.

Consequently, the trade talks shall live on. As long as the Padres continue to let Wiggins work out, they can wait for the best offer before trading him. Of course, 20 days from now, when the standard physical rehabilitation period is over, they will be ordered to trade him, play him or release him, or else they will find themselves in court.

In the meantime, the Padres can afford to be picky. Sources said their deal with the Orioles came very close to being completed, since Baltimore offered a minor leaguer and said they would pay Wiggins’ entire 4-year, $2.85-million contract.

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But the Orioles also wanted a clause in the contract that said if Wiggins went back on drugs during the four years, the team could release him and be responsible for just one-third of his contract. The Padres would be responsible for another third, and Wiggins would forfeit the final third.

This clause was the problem. Although Padre President Ballard Smith denies that, sources close to negotiations said the Padres wanted absolutely no obligations remaining with Wiggins, which meant they did not want even to be responsible for one third of his contract in the event of a relapse.

Said Smith: “That’s not the case.”

What was the case?

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“At an appropriate time, I’ll tell you,” he said.

Baltimore General Manager Hank Peters would not comment on negotiations. Padre General Manager Jack McKeon, reached at his office at 3:30 p.m., just an hour and a half before the deadline, had said: “No trade. Hey, I want to get it over with, and it may or may not happen. Right now, I don’t have anything, and if I did, I certainly wouldn’t wait until the last minute.”

Later, after the last minute had passed, McKeon went home, picked up his wife and went out for the evening. He was unavailable for comment.

The deadline that passed on Saturday is a unique one. It means a National League team can no longer trade with an American League team without putting the players involved on waivers. What’s unique is that players are rarely claimed on these waiver lists, for various reasons.

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In Wiggins’ case, he almost surely will not be claimed because the team would have to pick up his entire contract. The Orioles wanted a drug clause, but they wouldn’t get it if they picked him off the waiver list.

So the Padres still should have the chance to trade Wiggins, as long as they abide by the rules and let him work out. If not, the Major League Player’s Assn. would file a grievance immediately.

“We will continue to abide by the rules,” Smith said.

On Friday and Saturday, Wiggins did work out, going to the Padre clubhouse at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium. He lifted weights, swung a bat and stretched.

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Yet, the Padres return from a trip on Thursday, and since Smith has said Wiggins will never again play for the Padres, he certainly won’t want him hanging out with the players.

“There are all kinds of possibilities,” Smith said.

In other words, Wiggins could soon be assigned to the Padres’ Triple-A team in Las Vegas for workouts and/or playing time.

“That’s a possibility,” Smith said.

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San Diego could release Wiggins, but any team that then picked him up would only have to pay the minimum salary, the Padres getting stuck with the rest. Even so, Smith also said releasing him was a possibility.

Or there’s the final solution--the trade. Even though nothing was accomplished Saturday, it’s the most likely out.

“I’m not even saying it (the Baltimore trade) fell through,” Smith said. “I never said it did or it didn’t. I’ll just say there are all kinds of possibilities.”


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