If three of the Padres’ top young players can’t reach agreement with management by tonight, the club will renew their contracts at the club’s figure, according to the players’ agent, Scott Boras.
In a sudden twist to previously peaceful negotiations, Benito Santiago, Roberto Alomar and Sandy Alomar Jr.--the only three unsigned Padres--all face the prospects of playing this season at salaries upon which they didn’t agree.
According to the Players Assn. collective bargaining agreement, a club may arbitrarily decide a contract figure until a player has three full years of big-league service, at which point a player can take a club to arbitration. The league deadline for renewal is March 10, but most clubs renew earlier to get everyone under contract before the beginning of exhibition games.
“They told me, we have until Thursday night,” Boras said Wednesday from his office in Pomona. “I’m flying to Yuma and laying everything out on the table and hoping we can get something worked out.”
Dick Freeman, Padre interim president, said, “I cannot discuss this until I talk it over with everybody and see where we stand. Just say we are close with some, and not too close with a couple of others.”
Santiago, who made $165,000 last year in his second season, is hoping for a package that would put him close to $375,000, while the club is offering closer to $280,000.
Roberto Alomar, who made $62,500 as a rookie, is hoping for about $175,000. The team is offering approximately $145,000.
Sandy Alomar Jr. was on a minor league contract last season, and is close to agreement, partially because with no big-league service, he can’t hope for anything more than the major league minimum of $67,500.
“The way it works, they can just renew them, but we hope to get something done in time,” Boras said “We understand the collective bargaining agreement, and we abide by it, but we’d like to get everything out and see what can be done.”
Automatic renewal, which effects players differently depending on their sensitivity, is not uncommon with the Padres. Last spring, pitchers Dave Leiper and Mark Grant had contracts renewed. In the past, even former star outfielder Kevin McReynolds was renewed.
“If we have to renew, it will be for a fair price,” Freeman said. “We aren’t going to penalize anybody (as some clubs do) or try to hurt anybody. We will just pay them what we think it appropriate.”
Keeping everyone happy will be a little trickier this year with the impressionable Santiago, who had contract trouble last season after he was Rookie of the Year in 1987. Before settling on his $165,000 contract, he walked off the field for a couple of hours, and later said the distractions caused ill will that lasted throughout the summer.
Last winter he promptly dropped his agents--Davimos Sports of Miami--and picked up Boras, who immediately made one demand.
“I told Benito, you just worry about having the best year you can,” Boras said. “We understand how the process works, and we know what can happen if he has the kind of year for which he is capable.”
Translated, Santiago should keep quiet, because he can nail the Padres next year in arbitration.
He is having trouble in these negotiations because of numbers other than the ones on the contract. Last year, while he won a a Gold Glove and a second straight Silver Slugger award (best hitting catcher) and grew to be considered perhaps the best overall catcher in baseball, his batting fell off from 1987. His average went from .300 to .248, his home runs fell from 18 to 10, and his RBIs from 79 to 46.
Yet he is seeking more than the $100,000 raise given him for being Rookie of the Year. While any player or fan can tell you he was a better player, a more intimidating force, clubs don’t pay on perception, but stats.
“I’m not saying nothing, I’m only thinking happy, thinking about great year,” Santiago said.
Roberto Alomar was a little more blunt: “It’s OK, I not say nothing, they get me this year and next year,” he said. “But then comes arbitration, and I get them.”
He is being hurt because, while his overall statistics were better than virtually all of last year’s top rookies, he didn’t even finish in the top three in the Rookie of the Year balloting. Because the Padres paid Santiago last year based on that award, they will want to keep the same standards.
Boras said he would not advise his players against renewal, in part because low renewals help a player in arbitration, but mostly because he doesn’t want them to sign a contract they don’t like.
“The players know that renewal is an option, and if they feel we can’t come to agreement, then it is their best interest not to sign,” Boras said. “It’s all up to how they feel.”
Bruce Hurst woke up Wednesday feeling fine after his 15 minutes worth of throwing Tuesday. He was met in the training room by pitching coach Pat Dobson, and pronounced fit to start the club’s spring opener Friday here against the Angels. “Dr. Dobber said I was fine,” Hurst said. “Yeah, I feel great, no stiffness, I’m ready.” . . . John Kruk, recovering from winter knee surgery, saw limited action in a simulated game Wednesday and appeared to be improving, although he is still not near 100%. “We’re going to take it slow with him,” Manager Jack McKeon said. “We play him a couple of days here, a couple of days there, let him be the DH a couple of times. We aren’t worried about him being ready for March 5, we’re worried about the regular season.” . . . The pitching star of Wednesday’s simulated game was left-hander Pat Clements, acquired this winter with Jack Clark from the New York Yankees. He had not been impressive so far this spring because of bad mechanics, but Dobson said that Wednesday he suddenly seemed to figure everything out. “He’s made a lot of progress in a week, I was very, very pleased with him,” Dobson said. “He had a lot of trouble at first, but he’s working hard and getting it solved.” Admitted Clements, who may be working his way back into contention for the final bullpen spot: “I was pretty messed up when I came here, but Dobson is known for being good with mechanics, and everything he’s done has worked.” . . . Pitcher Walt Terrell also was happy with his outing Wednesday, his first in a game situation as a Padre, but for a different reason. “It was good for a first day--most of my pitches got there in the air,” Terrell said.