The Baltimore Orioles will draft Reggie Jackson and Ron Guidry of the New York Yankees in baseball's annual free agent reentry draft, owner Edward Bennett Williams said yesterday.
"I think (Yankee owner George) Steinbrenner is determined to sign Jackson," Williams said. "And I think Reggie has a predisposition to stay there. But we want to have an opportunity to sign him if we can.
"I think the difference between Steinbrenner and Jackson is years," he continued. "I understand Reggie wants a multiyear contract. I feel there will be reluctance on anyone's part to give him a long-term contract. He's 35 and you're talking mega-dollars. For three to five years, that's a major financial obligation."
Williams said he would be more interested in signing Jackson for two years, but declined to say how much he would be willing to pay him. All 26 teams except the Yankees can draft Jackson; the Yankees can retain negotiating rights to him simply by indicating a desire to do so.
If Jackson is determined not to be a full-time designated hitter (as he surely would be in New York) and to remain in the American League, and to play with a contender, then perhaps the Orioles are not an unlikely choice. Asked if the Orioles would be ready to use Jackson in the outfield, Oriole General Manager Hank Peters said, "Oh, yes. He might spend some time as a DH. He's not a great defensive ballplayer, but he's not totally inept, either."
The last time Jackson played out his option and became a free agent was 1976, the year he played for the Orioles. Jackson and Guidry, along with Boston second baseman Jerry Remy, are likely to be the most sought-after of the 41 players available in the draft that begins today at 11 a.m. in New York's Plaza Hotel.
"I suppose we'll draft Remy," Williams said. "He's a quality ballplayer and even if you can't use him, you can trade him for someone else of quality."
Remy was 14th among second basemen in the statistical breakdowns used to rank free agents. Rich Dauer, the Oriole second baseman, ranked first.
The Orioles also expect to draft several pitchers: John Denny, Rick Waits, and Sid Monge of the Indians, as well as Joaquin Andujar of the Cardinals, although Williams says he thinks St. Louis will try to sign Andujar.
The list of available players is hardly glittering: many of the biggest names, including Bill Madlock of the Pirates, Bobby Grich of the Angels and Dave Concepcion of the Reds, signed with their old teams. Ray Burris of the Expos also signed with his team yesterday, reportedly accepting a three-year contract for three years plus an option year for an average of $500,000 per year. Ken Griffey of the Reds was traded to the Yankees last week.
There are only three Type A free agents (those in the top 20 percent of players ranked at their position), Guidry, Ed Farmer and Dick Tidrow. There are three Type B free agents (those between 20-30 percent) available.
"It is a not a great thing to go to strike for," Williams said, "to have a bloodbath for three players and the compensation rights to them -- Guidry, Farmer and Tidrow."
Under the terms of the new basic agreement negotiated last summer, at the end of the 50-day old strike, five teams could opt out of the bidding on Type A free agents. They are the Red Sox, the Dodgers, the Mariners, the Angels, and the Twins. The compensation for signing the Type A free agents is an amateur draft pick and a player from the compensation pool drawn from the 21 particpating clubs.
The compensation for the three Type B free agents -- Chris Speier of the Expos, Dave Collins of the Reds and Tim Blackwell of the Cubs -- is two amateur draft picks; the compensation for the remaining, nonranking free agents is one amateur draft pick, which was the only form of compensation before this year's draft (all teams may bid on them).
Two players, Dick Drago of the Mariners and Sixto Lezcano of the Cardinals, filed petitions with the Major League Baseball Players Association yesterday, demanding to be traded. Players with five years major league experience and no contract are allowed to do that. The Orioles are known to be interested in a trade for Lezcano, an outfielder.
Although many players may be expecting to reap the free-agent bonanza of previous years (Guidry is asking for $1.3 million a year), Peters doesn't think that will happen. "The general economy is not very good this year in baseball," he said. And besides, "so many have been stung in the past."