Royals Sign Mark Davis to $13-Million Contract
Two weeks ago, a package of Kansas City Chamber of Commerce pamphlets, real-estate brochures and media guides arrived at Mark Davis’ home in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Davis opened the package, knowing that the Kansas City Royals were one of the teams bidding for free-agent players, but instead of studying--or even reading the material--he tossed it aside.
“I figured I was going to stay in San Diego anyway,” Davis said, “so why did I need that stuff for?”
Guess who has been studying demographic statistics in the greater Kansas City area these past 24 hours?
On Monday at Royals Stadium, Davis signed a contract for the largest annual salary in baseball history, $13 million for four years with Kansas City.
Maybe he’s still disillusioned because he isn’t staying in San Diego, but the Royals are considered one of the powers of the American League.
“I remember picking up the Phoenix paper one morning and seeing the Padres weren’t interested, and then a couple of paragraphs later saying the Kansas City Royals weren’t interested,” said Candy Davis, Davis’ wife.
“I told Mark, ‘Well, this is great. It looks like we’re going to end up playing in Japan.’
“I tend to overreact at things like that.”
The Padres might have overreacted when Davis’ agents, Randy and Alan Hendricks, rejected their four-year, $12 million contract last Tuesday. They found a replacement, free agent Craig Lefferts of the San Francisco Giants, who saved 20 games last season.
The Royals, who had listed Davis as their No. 1 off-season priority, also announced that they had dropped out of the Davis sweepstakes.
“When I found out that they rejected the Padres’ offer and weren’t going to sign with anyone unless they got a five-year guaranteed offer,” Royal General Manager John Schuerholz said, “I said, ‘Well, we’re out of it, too.’ ”
So the Royals spent $6 million on starter Storm Davis, another $2 million re-signing free-agent second baseman Frank White and center fielder Willie Wilson, and started making their spring-training plans when the phone rang Friday morning in Schuerholz’s office.
Randy Hendricks asked if the Royals were still interested in Davis.
“Not at that price,” Schuerholz said.
Hendricks: “How about for less years and less money.”
Schuerholz: “I’m listening.”
The Hendricks brothers, who are from Kansas City, and Schuerholz opened serious negotiations and at 6 p.m. Sunday, Davis was told to pack his bags. He was going to Kansas City.
By afternoon, he was wearing a Royals cap.
He also had his signature on the richest contract per season in baseball history.
Davis will receive a $1.5 million signing bonus, $1.75 million salary in 1990 and $3.25 million in 1991, 1992 and 1993. He also has award incentives in his contract that could pay him another $550,000 a season: $100,000 for the Cy Young award, $100,000 for the Rolaids Award, $100,000 for the American League Most Valuable Player award, $100,000 for World Series MVP award, $50,000 for MVP of the playoffs, $50,000 for the All-Star team, $25,000 for the Gold Glove award and $25,000 for making the postseason All-Star team.
“It really is amazing the kind of money that’s coming out now, isn’t it?” said Candy Davis, laughing. “You think he discovered the cure for cancer, or something.”
It is a lot of money, but Davis accepted only the fifth-best offer. He was offered five-year guaranteed contracts for more money per season by the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies. And there were four-year offers from the Angels, Detroit Tigers, Atlanta Braves, and, of course, the Padres, for whom he saved 44 games last season while winning the Cy Young award.
“These were spirited negotiations,” Randy Hendricks said, “but let the record show that San Diego was the one that didn’t want to sign Mark, not the other way around.”
The Padres made their fourth and final offer to Davis on Friday night for $12 million over four years. They waited for a response, and when Randy Hendricks said last Tuesday that they were rejecting the offer, Padre owner Joan Kroc became incensed, and told Manager Jack McKeon to find another reliever.
“The night the Padres offered four years for $12 million,” Hendricks said, “we asked for four years at $14 million. So it’s inaccurate to say we never made a four-year offer to the Padres.
“Really, we weren’t surprised when they went out and signed Lefferts, but we were surprised they never came to us and said, ‘This is our final offer. This is it. If you don’t take it, we’re going to make other arrangements.’
“We never were told that, or else Mark might be wearing a Padre uniform today.
“I wish the Padres the very best, and I hope Craig Lefferts does the job for them (next) year, but I think everyone knows that San Diego is where Mark wanted to play.”
Said Padre right fielder Tony Gwynn: “There’s a lot of us that don’t feel real good right now. Deep in my mind, I was hoping everything would turn out all right, and he’s sign with us.
“We’re going to miss him very much because there’s nobody like him. You just don’t find that kind of reliever with that kind of stuff, and you certainly don’t see those overpowering relievers in the American League.
“He’ll be just as successful over there as he was here. You’ll see. He’ll be in the All-Star game for the next four years.”
Davis becomes the first big free-agent signing in the Royals’ 20-year history. They’ve gone after Catfish Hunter, Pete Rose, Tommy John and Rick Sutcliffe, but always wound up just hiking the bidding for someone else.
This time, after four years of not attempting to lure high-priced free agents, they got the man that they believe will bring another World Series title to America’s heartland.
“We won a lot of division titles and a few championships with Dan Quisenberry as our stopper,” Schuerholz said, “and we came to the realization that we had to have someone in that role to return to championship caliber. We had to make some moves. With the A’s and Angels in our division, we couldn’t afford to mark time.”
Get our high school sports newsletter
Prep Rally is devoted to the SoCal high school sports experience, bringing you scores, stories and a behind-the-scenes look at what makes prep sports so popular.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.