Former Montreal Expo outfielder Andre Dawson became the first type-A free agent in the last two years to sign with a team other than his own when he agreed to a 1987 contract with the Chicago Cubs Friday.
While some may view it as a breakthrough in the owners' alleged collusion of the last two winters, the more accurate interpretation would seem to be that Dawson simply capitulated.
His attorney, Dick Moss, told the Cubs Tuesday that Dawson would accept a one-year contract and that the Cubs could determine the salary based on whatever they felt was appropriate.
The Cubs came back with the following offer: a $500,000 guaranteed salary; a $150,000 bonus if Dawson does not go on the disabled list with a knee injury before the All-Star game, and a $50,000 bonus if he makes the All-Star team.
There are other considerations believed to be based on postseason awards, but Moss said that Dawson probably doesn't have a realistic shot at them.
Dawson, who made $1.050 million last year and was offered a two-year, $2-million contract by the Expos before Jan. 8, when he became ineligible to re-sign with the Expos until May 1, lived up to his Tuesday word and accepted the Cub proposal without additional negotiations.
Don Fehr, executive director of the Major League Players Assn., said he believed that the Cubs had wanted to sign Dawson all along but that they had been told not to and that their obvious needs finally won out over the freeze-out.
Fehr said he was angry that Dawson had not received his true value but could appreciate his courage in making the proposal.
He said the union's case against collusion, now being heard by an arbitrator, will be aided in that it is obvious the Cubs were not going to sign Dawson until he offered to sign on their terms.
"We're in a war," Fehr said from Miami. "There's a difference between surrender and total victory, and this is somewhere in between."
Attorney Moss said he regarded it as a blow to the alleged owners' conspiracy in that it "changes the program" by which they were trying to force free agents back to their original teams.
Seven type-A free agents remain unsigned. They are Tim Raines, Rich Gedman, Lance Parrish, Bob Boone, Bob Horner, Ron Guidry and Doyle Alexander. Moss cited the freeze-out and said he had made the proposal to the Cubs in the belief that neither the Cubs nor any other team would make a bona fide offer. He said Dawson will be paid less than half of what he would be entitled to in a legitimate market.
He added, however, that "nothing detracts" from Dawson's enthusiasm at being where he wants to be.
The 34-year-old outfielder has a .346 career average at Wrigley Field and is second to Mike Schmidt as the Cubs' most productive opponent there. Moss also cited Dawson's preference for day baseball and a grass field, which is less damaging to his tender knees than the synthetic surface of Olympic Stadium in Montreal.
The signing of a type-A free agent would have normally cost the Cubs their first-round amateur draft choice as compensation to the Expos, but since the Cubs finished among the 13 teams with the worst won-lost percentage last year, they have to give up only a second-round selection.
Club President Dallas Green said that he had initially suspected Dawson's motives and that a series of recent arguments with Moss had brought him to the point of saying forget it.
"Nothing had really changed that," he said. "We still had 11 outfielders, a lot of kids who wanted to play and a $15 million payroll that we hadn't been able to reduce.
"But Dick's proposal, where we could name our price, put the ball squarely in our court."