Dodgers: Butler Over Hershiser : Baseball: Financial considerations could mean a choice between popular players.
The Dodgers, realizing that budgetary cutbacks will lead to difficult and perhaps unpopular decisions, said Tuesday they probably will have to choose between re-signing outfielder Brett Butler or pitcher Orel Hershiser.
And if it comes to that, they will choose Butler.
“It’s very unlikely we’re going to be able to keep both of them,” said Fred Claire, Dodger executive vice president. “And Brett is someone that we’re going to have to give more consideration to, as far as what he can do for the team.
“We haven’t come to an official conclusion, but in all likelihood, that’s what’s going to have to happen.”
Hershiser, who has spent his 16-year career in the Dodger organization, said he has prepared his family for the possibility he will be pitching elsewhere next season, providing the players and owners have settled their labor difficulties. He has been contacted by eight to 10 teams, he said, but the Dodgers have not made him an offer.
“My ultimate goal would be to end my career as a Dodger,” Hershiser, 36, said. “But I can’t create a job that is not there. They’ve got to run a business. And if last year happened to be my last year in a Dodger uniform, that’s reality.
“Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Fernando Valenzuela couldn’t pitch forever with the Dodgers, and baseball still goes on. I’m not classifying myself along with those pitchers, but I’m certainly not going to be bitter if I’m not asked back.”
The Dodgers must offer a contract for $3.5 million to Butler and one for $3 million to Hershiser by Jan. 15 if they want to retain their negotiating rights. If no contracts are offered, the Dodgers will be prohibited from negotiating with the players until May 1.
“This won’t entirely be in our control,” Claire said. “They can each leave on their own too. We’ll have to see what happens.”
Hershiser said, “Baseball is in enough trouble without anyone worrying about Orel Hershiser. I think it’s important for us to have Brett back. I think I can still help too.
“My hope is still that we both return.”
The Dodgers, who have already trimmed about $7 million from their 1994 payroll, are expected to maneuver easily below their $43.88-million salary cap. Yet, because of their loss of income from the 1994 strike season, the player budget could be about $30 million.
“We have plenty of room under the cap, but that’s not the meaningful figure for us,” Claire said. “We have a budget we want to follow. We’re trying to maintain flexibility, so the question is what do we do from this point.”
The Dodgers still are awaiting a decision by starting pitcher Ramon Martinez, a restricted free agent. They tendered him a contract for $2.956 million, but he has decided to test the marketplace instead. The Dodgers would have 10 days to match any offer that Martinez receives and apparently intend to keep him.
They have a tentative starting rotation of Martinez, Tom Candiotti, Pedro Astacio, Ismael Valdes and either Omar Daal, Chan Ho Park, Rick Gorecki or Darren Dreifort.
Dreifort, who faced major elbow surgery two months ago, has been cleared to pitch again.
Dreifort chose rehabilitative work instead of surgery and has been pitching pain-free the last few weeks, agent Scott Boras said.
“The only difference now is that he’ll probably be a starter instead of a reliever,” Boras said.