Two days after they stunned baseball by signing free agent Jack Clark, the New York Yankees were themselves stung by the loss of pitcher Bill Gullickson.
On the last day free agents could sign with their previous teams, he rejected the Yankees' final offer and flew to Tokyo to sign a two-year, $3.3-million contract with the Yomiuri Giants.
He was one of 33 free agents who had until midnight Friday to re-sign with their previous teams. If they didn't, they couldn't be re-signed until May 1.
And although this year's deadline lacked last year's suspense, when stars such as Andre Dawson, Tim Raines, Lance Parrish and Bob Horner were involved, it was nonetheless a busy day.
Many of the announced free agents are aging veterans or players who weren't going to be offered contracts anyway. With Jack Morris, Clark and Dave Righetti all already off the market, the most prominent players available Friday were pitchers Atlee Hammaker of San Francisco, Dave Smith of Houston and Gullickson.
Hammaker re-signed with the Giants, getting a two-year, $1.325 million deal, and the Astros signed Smith to a two-year, $2.2 million package that also includes a $1.1 million option for 1990. If the Astros don't pick up the 1990 option, they must buy him out for $250,000. In a final-day rush, the Astros also signed pitchers Larry Andersen and Danny Darwin and extended the contracts of Mike Scott and Denny Walling.
Meanwhile, the Astros brought back free-agent pitcher Joaquin Andujar for the 1988 season. He pitched for Oakland last season but spent the first six seasons of his career in Houston.
Still, the biggest news concerned the Yankees, who were already scrambling to piece together a starting rotation and now will probably try to sign free agent John Candelaria, who decided not to return to the New York Mets. Still, that may not completely offset the loss of Gullickson, who was acquired from Cincinnati in a midseason trade for Dennis Rasmussen. He was 10-11 for Cincinnati and 4-2 for the Yankees.
The Yankees offered $900,000 per season for two years, but General Manager Lou Piniella said: "I got an indication yesterday from the agent that he wanted us to revise our figures upward by one-third, from $900,000 to $1.2 million.
Piniella said there appeared little doubt that the Yankees' signing of Righetti to a three-year, $4.3 million contract raised Gullickson's asking price.
Gullickson said he had no qualms about adjusting to a new culture.
"The offer from Japan will take care of my family for life," he said. "I'm a pretty adventurous person. I think I might enjoy it. I'll be 30 when my two years are up, and I can still resume by career in the big leagues after that."
Candelaria waited until a few minutes before midnight to tell the Mets he was rejecting their offer.
Another prominent player yet unsigned is Don Baylor, 38. He has spoken with several teams, including the Baltimore Orioles.