McReynolds to File for Arbitration

Times Staff Writer

Far apart in dollars and sense, the Padres and center fielder Kevin McReynolds ended contractual negotiations Thursday night. McReynolds says he will file for arbitration.

Tom Selakovich, McReynolds' friend/agent, is the one who broke the news Friday, when contacted at his Chicago office.

"This could be viewed as explosive," he said. "We're gonna file next week."

Meanwhile, Padre General Manager Jack McKeon hardly was surprised, considering Selakovich began talking arbitration a season ago. It was last spring that McReynolds and Company turned down a 6-year, $4.5 million Padre offer because they felt arbitration would bring in even more money after the 1985 season.

McReynolds, 26, then went out and had a very average season, batting .234, with 15 home runs and 75 RBIs. In 1984, he had done much better, hitting .278 with 20 homers and 75 RBIs.

What has emerged is a complicated negotiating platform. McReynolds' side, citing his marvelous potential and statistics to date, would prefer something between $400,000 and $500,000 a year. The Padres, also citing McReynolds' potential but realizing that it might not be a sure thing, prefer the $250,000-a-year range.

The only answer would be arbitration. McReynolds will file next week. Each side will have three days to submit what it thinks the player is worth. An impartial arbitrator will hear three to six hours of arguments and then spend 24 hours to decide on a figure.

It will be over in February.

Negotiations began early November, and Selakovich said he has spoken with McKeon four times since. They agreed only that there would be no multi-year contract.

The Padres are not about to offer a multi-year deal similar to the one they offered last spring after McReynolds had an average season. McReynolds does not seem to want one, either.

It could be argued that McReynolds made a mistake by not accepting that offer. He renewed last season at $150,000 when he could have made approximately $300,000. And the salary would have escalated to $1 million in the sixth year of his contract.

McReynolds and Selakovich do not think they made a mistake.

"We are both happy that we only signed a one-year contract because of what's happened with the ballclub," Selakovich said.

In other words, McReynolds is not exactly gung-ho about news that Dick Williams will continue as the Padre manager. Had Williams left the team this off-season, it would be different.

"We are not in favor of signing a long-term contract," Selakovich said. "We, first of all, have to see what will be done in the future of this team. The manager is back, and obviously against the wishes of higher management. Yes, the owner (Joan Kroc) has a right to do anything she wants to do. God bless her. I mean, she's the owner of the club. But she has made a decision that certainly is not popular with my client.

" . . . So right now, to be honest with you, it is better for us to look at this thing one year at a time and to just evaluate after each year exactly what the situation is in San Diego. . . . This was not a happy Padre family last year, and I do not believe, unless there are major changes, that this will be a happy family in 1986."

Selakovich has suggested a spring-training meeting with Williams, McKeon, McReynolds and himself to iron out difficulties.

The saving grace in all this is Selakovich's regard for McKeon, and McKeon's love for McReynolds. Often, players take a team to arbitration only to find that the team becomes bitter toward them. In this case, however, McKeon has constantly given McReynolds pep talks, and Selakovich throws bouquets at McKeon.

As Selakovich said on Friday: "Jack and I have never had a better relationship. I've called him the best genius in baseball. He is the best evaluator of talent among general managers. If they ever lost Jack McKeon, they'd lose so much of that ballclub. Losing Jack McKeon would be like losing (Goose) Gossage and (Steve) Garvey at the same time. She (Kroc) should understand that. He turned the whole organization around."

But these men will be adversaries in a few weeks. Selakovich, when he faces the arbitrator, will carry pages of computer printouts. He has compared McReynolds to all other outfielders in baseball, using 14 different categories. Of the 88 outfielders who have started 200 games in two years, he said McReynolds ranks "very high, except in one category--salaries . . . He's 78th out of 88."

His computer also rates McReynolds, statistics-wise, as the second best all-around player on the Padres, behind Steve Garvey.

"And only the left fielder (Carmelo Martinez) makes less money," he said.

What might McKeon counter with? Four of the players Selakovich rated behind McReynolds--Tony Gwynn, Terry Kennedy, Graig Nettles and Garry Templeton--have made the All-Star team at least two times.

Has McReynolds ever been an All-Star? No sir.

Let the battle begin.

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