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Dodgers Comfortable, Angels Are Itching : Baseball meetings: Claire not desperate for another deal, but Herzog has a lot of holes to fill.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Fred Claire, executive vice president of the Dodgers, arrived Saturday for the start of the winter baseball meetings with Eric Davis, Orel Hershiser and Tom Candiotti already in the fold and the likelihood of another major move before spring training on hold.

“I’m not saying we won’t be talking here,” Claire said, “but I’m not looking for any significant moves. I feel we can go to spring training and react then if there’s a need.

“We were looking to add a right-handed hitter and improve our starting pitching, and we’ve done both. We’re reasonably well set. I feel good about the club. If we leave here without having made another trade I won’t be disappointed.”

Claire’s satisfaction is in sharp contrast to the frustration of Whitey Herzog, senior vice president of the Angels.

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“I had hoped we’d be much further along by now, and I’m very frustrated that we aren’t,” Herzog said. “I had hoped that we would have signed (Bobby) Bonilla and (Wally) Joyner and acquired a center fielder by now.

“Add that to the depth of our pitching and we would have had a pretty good ballclub. Now we have to make something happen, bring it to a head.”

The Angels, if anything, have subtracted rather than added since finishing last in the American League West.

They bought out the 1992 contract of Dave Winfield, failed to reach agreement with free agent first baseman Joyner and are not close in talks with their two other free agents: shortstop Dick Schofield and pitcher Kirk McCaskill.

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All except Winfield were offered arbitration Saturday, a decision that prevents Winfield from re-signing with the Angels before May 1.

If Joyner leaves as well, and the Angels are unable to trade for or sign two outfielders and a designated hitter any other way, Herzog said he would have to do the one thing he doesn’t want to do: break up his pitching nucleus by trading Chuck Finley.

He may have to do that anyway. Finley, 18-9 last year while handicapped by a toe injury that was corrected in surgery Friday, is eligible for free agency after the 1992 season.

Herzog met with Finley’s agents, Alan and Randy Hendricks, for five hours in Houston Friday and received the outline of a multiyear proposal Herzog said he would present to owners Gene and Jackie Autry.

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“I don’t want to get in the same position with Finley (next winter) that we’re now in with Joyner,” Herzog said. “We either sign him to a multiyear contract now or trade him, which I would hate to do.”

Finley has been mentioned in a variety of trade rumors--the most persistent involving Mike Greenwell of the Boston Red Sox--and could become a pivotal factor if the Angels enter serious trade talks with the Pittsburgh Pirates for Barry Bonds or the Texas Rangers for Ruben Sierra.

Both are eligible for free agency after the 1992 season and probably will be traded if they can’t reach agreements with their current clubs.

Both are expected to want more than the $29 million Bonilla received from the New York Mets, which may be an impossible reach, particularly for the Pirates--and, perhaps, the Angels, considering their current financial philosophy.

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Herzog said Saturday he is interested but would be reluctant to trade for either Bonds or Sierra without having their contract situation resolved.

He also implied that free-agent outfielders Danny Tartabull and Otis Nixon seem to represent more viable alternatives. Club president Richard Brown arranged Saturday to meet with Tartabull’s agent, Dennis Gilbert, this morning.

Nixon must miss the first 18 days of the 1992 season because of his 60-day drug suspension, but that recurring problem does not seem to faze either Herzog or Buck Rodgers, who was Nixon’s manager with the Montreal Expos.

In meeting the Saturday deadline for offering arbitration to Joyner, Schofield and McCaskill, the Angels extended their negotiating rights to Jan. 8 and protected their compensation rights if the player signs with another team. Each has until Dec. 19 to accept or reject the offer.

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If it is accepted, the player is considered signed for 1992, with his salary determined by arbitration or continuing negotiations with the club.

Winfield was not offered arbitration, club executive Dan O’Brien said, because the Angels already had bought out his $3-million 1992 contract for $450,000 and did not want to have it reinstated in arbitration. O’Brien said the Angels were attempting to re-sign Winfield at renegotiated terms as late as Friday, but those talks, under the pressure of Saturday’s midnight deadline for offering arbitration, failed. Winfield becomes an unrestricted free agent whose signing does not require a draft choice in compensation, enhancing his chances. The Toronto Blue Jays are among the interested clubs.

The Angels also did not offer arbitration to free agents Bert Blyleven, Jeff Robinson and Donnie Hill, but O’Brien said it is possible that Blyleven will come to spring training with a minor league contract.

In the meantime, it is uncertain where the Angels are headed with Joyner. Their four-year offer of about $16 million was taken off the table Friday when Joyner refused to agree to it before the club’s deadline.

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Joyner is willing to accept a clause resulting in a loss of salary if there is a lockout or strike, his attorney, Barry Axelrod, said, but in return he wants less salary in 1994, when there is the greatest risk of a work stoppage, and more in the other three years.

The Angels have refused, a decision believed to have been made by Jackie Autry. It also is believed that Herzog opposed the deadline concept, but he would not comment on that. Axelrod said here Saturday that he would call Herzog today to see if there is an avenue of compromise.

“Wally was a major part of our plans,” Herzog said. “His loss would be significant, which is why I’ve worked my butt off trying to get it done.

“But we also have to know where we stand, if we have to make adjustments in our priorities and plans. It’s still kind of up in the air.”

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If Joyner returns, Herzog said, Lee Stevens would be the right fielder or DH. If Joyner leaves, Stevens will play first, and Herzog is back to needing those two outfielders and a DH.

“Obviously, we have a lot of work to do,” Herzog said.

Claire is confronted by far fewer ifs as he assembles the Dodger roster.

He opened the door for Juan Samuel’s return to second base by offering arbitration Friday; has promised Chris Gwynn he will attempt to trade him; is known to have received inquiries from the New York Yankees about infielders Lenny Harris and Dave Hansen (the Dodgers have interest in re-acquiring Steve Sax) and remains likely to trade Kal Daniels to an American League team looking for a DH.

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His most serious pursuit here, he implied, may be for a veteran, “short-term” first baseman as protection for the comparatively untested Eric Karros. Among the possible candidates are Rickey Jordan of the Philadelphia Phillies, Dave Magadan of the New York Mets and Randy Milligan of the Baltimore Orioles.


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