Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn stayed two deals the Pittsburg Pirates made yesterday to acquire first baseman Jim Spencer, two pitchers and cash from the New York Yankees, pending an examination of the amount of cash involved in the Pirate-Yankee trade.
Earlier in the day, the Pirates acquired Jason Thompson from the California Angels for catcher Ed Ott and pitcher Mickey Mahler. The Pirates then traded Thompson to the Yankees for first baseman Spencer, right-handed pitchers Greg Cochran and Freddie Tolliver and an undisclosed amount of cash.
"There's a question of whether the second deal, the Pirate-Yankee deal, exceeds the cash limit that the commissioner has established for trades," Bob Wirz, director of information for the major leagues, said last night.
"We've told the clubs we've held it up and will discuss it in the morning when we have all the facts. I wouldn't anticipate any problems."
A Pirate spokesman said the commissioner's office did not reveal why the suspension was invoked, but indicated that the money involved was probably the concern and that the team hoped to receive word this morning.
"Something will give tommorrow," said the Pirate spokesman. "I got the impression that the commissioner was out of the office (when the deals were announced) and just wants to get back to New York to look it over. I think it's stricktly a formality. I think the intention (of the commissioner) is well-taken, but perhaps a little accelerated.
"I have to think . . . the amount (of cash involved) evidently caught his eye. We're not concerned. We've made what we consider to be a good deal. If it is prohibitive (Kuhn's decision), we will undergo different avenues to effect the same result."
The amount of money was not revealed.
"I think what George (Steinbrenner, Yankee owner) wants to give up and what we want to receive can remain discreet. It will remain undisclosed."
Cochran and Tolliver both are in the Yankee farm system. Thompson hit 21 home runs last year for the Angels.
Kuhn consistently has maintained that it is within his rights as commissioner to hold up trades involving large amounts of cash. In 1976 he voided deals that would have sent Oakland's Vida Blue to the Yankees and Joe Rudi to the Boston Red Sox.
On February 3, 1977, the commissioner held up the sale of pitcher Paul Lindblad from the A's to the Texas Rangers, and called for a hearing. He approved the sale, but said then that any cash transactions of substantial amounts of cash would be examined closely by him. On Feb. 3, 1979, Kuhn held up the sale of catcher Bruce Robinson from the A's to the Yankees. He eventually allowed that sale to go through.
Some time after the Lindblad deal, Kuhn set as a general guideline in cash deals the amount of $400,000.
As for both deals being suspended, Wirz said, "We are holding the whole thing up because with the two deals having been made back-to-back, and we don't have all of the particulars, we don't know whether they are inter-related or not."