Giants Sign McGee for 4 Years, $13 Million : Baseball: Also getting big contracts are Pendleton with Braves, Gullickson with Tigers and Martinez with Expos.
The impact of the proposed collusion settlement on the free-agent market hit like the snowstorm here Monday.
The highlight came when the San Francisco Giants told center fielder Brett Butler he is not worth the same money that Will Clark and Kevin Mitchell receive--"We pay home run hitters,” club President Al Rosen said--and signed free agent Willie McGee to replace him. McGee cost the Giants $13 million for four years.
Butler will be one of 15 players who receive new-look free agency as part of the $280-million collusion settlement expected to be approved by the 26 owners when they meet Wednesday at the winter meetings here.
The Giants had been attempting to tear up the last two years of his current contract--paying him $1.45 million a year--and replace it with a three- or four-year deal in which Butler would waive his new-look rights, but the talks ended Monday when Butler’s agent, Dick Moss, continued to ask for four years at $15 million.
Rosen confirmed the figures and said: “The price was more than we could meet, and we didn’t want to leave without a center fielder.”
McGee wasn’t exactly a bargain buy.
“For a hundred and some years we haven’t been able to find a way to destroy the game, but now I think we’ve finally found the key,” Rosen said.
The Giants’ president has been a leading locksmith considering the contracts he has doled out to, among others, Clark, Mitchell, Kevin Bass (signed as a free agent last winter for three years at $5.25 million), Bud Black (recently signed for four years at $10 million) and now McGee.
Agent Tom Reich described it as a windfall for McGee and said the new-look candidates have created a “new level of uncertainty for the clubs.”
On a big-money Monday that found the Dodgers guaranteeing free agent Kevin Gross $6.4 million for three years; the Atlanta Braves signing free-agent third baseman Terry Pendleton to a four-year, $11.2-million contract, and the Detroit Tigers signing pitcher Bill Gullickson for two years at $3.8 million, the new-look aspect also was a factor in the Montreal Expos re-signing of pitcher Dennis Martinez.
Martinez waived his new-look rights in signing a three-year, $9.5-million contract that will replace the two years he had left on his existing contract.
Though 35, Martinez was expected to create widespread interest as a free agent, but he said the Expos’ unsolicited offer of a third year served as the frosting on his desire to stay in Montreal.
General Manager Dave Dombrowski said the Expos were forced to treat Martinez like a free agent.
“We were very concerned about losing him,” Dombrowski said after making Martinez the Expos’ first $3-million-a-year player.
The Expos remain one of about a half-dozen clubs strongly opposed to the terms of the collusion settlement. “There’s an outside chance it won’t be passed, but I don’t think there’s enough clubs that feel as strongly about it as we do,” Dombrowski said.
Montreal’s objection to the awarding of free agency to 15 players who were also free agents in the winter of 1987 is known to be shared by the Minnesota Twins, who could lose Gary Gaetti and Juan Berenguer; the Houston Astros, who could lose Danny Darwin and Dave Smith, and the New York Yankees, who could lose Mike Witt and Dave LaPoint.
“The disturbing thing is that there was movement and signings that winter,” Minnesota General Manager Andy MacPhail said.
“I mean, accepting the fact that we have to share equally in the collusion fine, it’s still not a fair distribution because the burden is on the back of the clubs losing players. It’s onerous, and strictly in our self-interest to be verbal about it.”
The Giants were, telling Butler he was free to go. He is expected to do that, though he could return to the club under his existing contract if he finds nothing as a new-look free agent. Manager Roger Craig, however, said he would probably move Robby Thompson to the leadoff spot and bat McGee second.
“We’ve lost a great person, player and leadoff hitter, but we’ve gained more sock and run production,” he said. “I talked to Willie and he said, ‘Bat me anywhere you want and I’ll do the rest.’ ”
McGee, a Bay Area native, only has to move across the Bay Bridge. Reich said McGee’s chance of remaining in the Bay Area had seemed a longshot because both the A’s and Giants had fine center fielders in Dave Henderson and Butler.
“He’s thrilled to have this develop, to be able to stay home,” Reich said.
The fallout will be felt in Oakland, because Dave Henderson is also expected to become a new-look free agent. He is now in a stronger bargaining position because the A’s have one fewer option with McGee signed, although they did sign free agent Willie Wilson as insurance late Monday night for about $2 million over two years.
The Angels are expected to get outfielder Dave Gallagher from Baltimore in exchange for the minor league pitchers David Martinez and Mike Hook. Gallagher, who hit .254 in 68 games last year, is expected to back up Junior Felix in center field. . . . The Angels lost right-hander Brandy Vann to the Milwaukee Brewers in Monday’s Rule 5 draft, leaving him available despite having four openings on their 40-man roster.
Times staff writer Helene Elliott contributed to this story.