Dodger owner Peter O'Malley, after approving a contract offer that would give Fernando Valenzuela an extra guaranteed year, said Tuesday that he is confident that the free-agent pitcher will soon sign it. "I think he will sign now, I really do," O'Malley said after the Dodgers revised their offer to a two-year guaranteed contract worth nearly $4 million. "We really want to sign him, and we feel this is a very fair, good deal."
O'Malley said the offer probably will be the club's final bid to keep the left-hander.
"Somebody else may come in and offer him a three- or four-year deal, but we have to draw the line somewhere, and we just hope they understand," O'Malley said. "This is about as far as we will go."
The Dodgers' original offer was a one-year guaranteed contract worth $1.5 million, with a $1.5-million option year and $350,000 buyout. Valenzuela's demand has been for about $6 million over three years, with a promise that no matter where negotiations end, he would not take a pay cut from last year's $1.85 million.
Although exact terms of the new offer were not released, Valenzuela reportedly will make at least $1.85 million each of the two years if he signs.
"We are talking to the Dodgers, yes, but also to other teams," Valenzuela's agent, Tony DeMarco, said. "Other than that, I have no comment."
Valenzuela was 10-13 with a 3.43 earned-run average last season, but O'Malley said that the Dodgers' determination to sign the left-hander is not a result of his popularity.
"If a guy doesn't win, he's not going to be popular very long," O'Malley said. "Most people out there hitting .200 aren't very popular.
"Popularity is certainly important, but we want Fernando because we think he can win."
O'Malley said that the increased offer is a result of the natural evolution of the game, particularly salaries.
"This game changes by the hour, by the day, and we just want to be on top of it," O'Malley said. "With this offer, I think we are."
The revised offer highlighted a day of changes by the Dodgers that appear to point to a possible trade involving either John Wetteland or Ramon Martinez for a center fielder.
After re-opening talks with Valenzuela, the Dodgers offered arbitration to free-agent pitcher John Tudor, who previously had neither sought nor been offered a new Dodger contract. Tudor has until Dec. 19 to accept the arbitration bid, which would put him back on the roster and put a one-year contract in the hands of an independent arbitrator. Also offered arbitration was free-agent outfielder John Shelby.
The Dodgers then cleared room on their 40-man roster by sending four players outright to triple-A Albuquerque--outfielders Billy Bean and Mike Huff, and pitchers Jeff Fischer and Mike Munoz.
Three of the four open spots could be occupied by Valenzuela, Tudor and Shelby. That leaves one vacancy, which could be filled as soon as today by one of several center fielders.
The leading candidate might be Montreal's Tim Raines, who possibly could be acquired for Wetteland, outfielder Mike Marshall and reliever Alejandro Pena.
"I'll just say we're working on something big, something gigantic," said Expo General Manager Dave Dombrowski, who has had several meetings with the Dodgers.
Another possibility is a deal with Philadelphia for Len Dykstra or Von Hayes, although Phillie General Manager Lee Thomas said he thought talks with the Dodgers were waning.
"We're still talking, but I'm not sure anything can be done," he said.
He indicated that the Dodgers want Hayes more than Dykstra, but would not give up top players for him.
"I'm tired of all these teams coming in, wanting our top players, but not offering top players in return," said Thomas, who would probably require Tim Belcher instead of Wetteland for Hayes.
Another possibility was that New York Met center fielder Juan Samuel might be acquired for Pena and Marshall.
The Dodgers got three minor league pitchers through baseball's minor league draft Tuesday. Assigned to triple-A Albuquerque were right-handers Michael Christopher, formerly of the New York Yankee organization, and Kenneth Burroughs, formerly of the Chicago White Sox. Left-hander James Terrill, formerly of San Francisco, was assigned to double-A San Antonio. Christopher was 6-1 with a 2.52 earned-run average for double-A Albany, and Burroughs was 0-2 with a 7.45 ERA for Class-A Utica. Terrill was 5-6 with a 2.86 ERA for Class-A San Jose.
The Dodgers lost right-hander Kenneth Luckham, who was drafted by Houston from the San Antonio roster. . . . Luckham was 6-7 with a 4.54 ERA for Class-A Salem, Ore. A name from the Dodgers' past, pitcher Ed Vande Berg, was drafted by Seattle's triple-A team from the Chicago Cubs' triple-A Iowa team.
Their apparent failure to acquire center fielder Joe Carter from Cleveland has reportedly led the Angels to consider talks with the Boston Red Sox for Ellis Burks. Burks would probably cost the Angels a package including Kirk McCaskill. . . . The Angels are also inquiring about the availability of Red Sox catcher Rich Gedman, who could be expendable with Boston's acquisition of Tony Pena and would be insurance if Lance Parrish is not re-signed. . . . Philadelphia Phillie relief pitcher Roger McDowell also remains on the Angel shopping list.
The Red Sox are reportedly close to signing Minnesota free-agent reliever Jeff Reardon, and possibly Twins' teammate Kent Hrbek. . . . Ex-Angel catcher and outfielder Darrell Miller, who played at triple-A Columbus (New York Yankees) last season, was signed as a minor league free agent by the Baltimore Orioles. He was assigned to triple-A Rochester.
Former San Francisco pitcher Dave Dravecky will undergo surgery early next month to remove a second desmoid tumor in his left arm. Last summer Dravecky, 33, recovered from an earlier cancerous tumor in an identical spot to pitch two games for the San Francisco Giants. His season ended when he suffered a fracture in the arm in his second comeback start. He announced his retirement last month when the second tumor was discovered.
"As I said prior to the first surgery, I feel completely comfortable with this operation," Dravecky said in a statement. "Everything is in God's hands."