Claire Has Some Second Thoughts in Trade Talk

Times Staff Writer

Fred Claire is approaching his search for a second baseman with something less than the urgency of a last-minute Christmas shopper.

“I just want to find someone who wants to play for us,” the Dodgers’ executive vice president said, “because I’ve been getting a lot of rejection lately.”

That was Claire’s wry way of referring to Steve Sax’s defection to the New York Yankees and the decisions by two other free agents courted by the Dodgers, Tommy Herr of the Philadelphia Phillies and Ron Oester of the Cincinnati Reds, to stay with those teams.

Claire continued talks with another free agent, Willie Randolph, and inquired about the availability of Seattle’s Harold Reynolds and the New York Mets’ Wally Backman. He also was welcoming any interest in two Dodgers probably made expendable by Sunday’s deal for Eddie Murray--Franklin Stubbs and Mike Davis.


Stubbs’ agent, Jim Turner, let Claire know Monday that his client, who hit .223 with 8 home runs in part-time duty last season, would like to play every day somewhere else. Claire said he’d try to accommodate him.

Davis’ agent, Tom Reich, said Monday that he expects to be in touch soon as well. Davis, meanwhile, said from his office in the Bay Area that as much as he enjoyed being a Dodger, it might be best for him to be traded.

“One thing I don’t want to do is sit on the bench and waste away for another year,” said Davis, who spent 1988 in essentially that fashion, batting just .196 with 2 home runs in 281 at-bats.

Claire said he’s not sure where his second baseman is going to come from. Backman would seem to be a decent possibility, given the Mets’ surplus of middle infielders, but it’s hard to imagine what the Dodgers have to offer in return that would interest the Mets.


New York is looking for a right-handed power hitter and a left-handed reliever, commodities the Dodgers have in short supply. Sure, the Mets would take 20-year-old right-hander Ramon Martinez, but so would every other team in the majors. Backman, a switch-hitter who batted .303 in 99 games last season, also offers only a partial solution to the Dodgers’ need: He can’t hit left-handers.

Reynolds has been an all-star the last two seasons for Seattle, but one Mariner official said there’s no way they’d part with him. They have no one behind him who could take his place.

Claire all but ruled out the possibility of trading a front-line player for a second baseman, which makes the free-agent avenue--and Randolph--the most attractive candidate. But Randolph is being ardently pursued by the Chicago White Sox, whose new manager, Jeff Torborg, is close friends with the former Yankee captain.

“I see Willie Randolph as someone who probably could fit our needs,” said Claire, adding that the Dodgers have not made an offer to the 34-year-old second baseman, who made $875,000 last season.


“He’s a quality individual, a quality player, excellent on-base percentage, a great man to have on a team,” Claire said.

Randolph, however, is coming off a season in which he hit a career-low .230, going hitless in his last 30 at-bats. He had wrist and rib injuries during the season, and arthroscopic knee surgery a couple of weeks after it ended.

So, the prospect of Mariano Duncan starting at second remains, especially since another in-house candidate, Mike Sharperson, has a sore right shoulder that cut short his winter league season. And Manager Tom Lasorda, just back from seeing Duncan play in the Dominican Republic, said he has yet to receive an apology from Duncan for calling him a liar last spring.

“I don’t like what he said about me,” said Lasorda, who is still bemoaning the loss of Sax.


Lasorda, however, insisted that any feelings he might have toward Duncan won’t influence his judgment of him as a player.


The Dodgers selected two right-handed pitchers for $50,000 each in Monday’s major league draft. They took Chris Jones, who was 6-10 for double-A Knoxville last season, from Toronto’s system, and Jeff Fischer, 13-8 at triple-A Indianapolis, from the Montreal system. The players must remain on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster next season or be offered back to their former teams at half the price. . . . The Angels selected Marcus Lawton, an outfielder from the Mets’ triple-A Tidewater club.