ROSEMONT, ILL., DEC. 5 -- Major League Baseball owners today authorized their Player Relations Committee to settle the free agent collusion case by distributing $280 million to about 300 players and granting so-called "new-look" free agency to 15.
Such a settlement would end a bitter, five-year battle in which arbitrators found the owners guilty of conspiring to kill the free agent market after the 1985, '86 and '87 seasons. It also would cost each of the 26 teams about $10.8 million. A final agreement has yet to be written.
"I think in essence we can consider the so-called collusion litigation concluded, subject to the lawyers wrapping up the details and getting final agreement on some of the terms," said Chuck O'Connor, general counsel for the PRC, which is the owners' bargaining arm in negotiations with the Major League Baseball Players Association.
The players association will vote on the proposed settlement Thursday in Orlando, Fla.
O'Connor said there are still some timing and language issues that lawyers must work out but, if "everything falls into place," the 15 new-look players will become free agents in three or four days.
The players: Brett Butler, Jack Clark, Gary Gaetti, Dave Henderson, Jack Morris, Dave Smith, Mike Witt, Larry Andersen, Juan Berenguer, Danny Darwin, Chili Davis, Mike Heath, Mike LaCoss, Dave LaPoint and Charlie Leibrandt. (Dennis Martinez also could have become a free agent but signed a new three-year contract with the Expos worth $9.5 million.)
But the apparent agreement between the majors and minors has hit a snag, although the minors' executive committee already has approved the proposed contract.
"At least one very serious issue" has emerged, said Pittsburgh Pirates President Carl Barger, a member of the majors' bargaining team.
As a result, the big league owners authorized the bargaining team to negotiate an extension of terminated player development contracts between parent clubs and minor league teams to mid-January and an extension of the overall agreement to mid-February.
There were no developments from the National League Expansion Committee. But Donald Dell, who has helped John Akridge organize a group of investors seeking a team for RFK Stadium, said he was not aware of any effort to merge Akridge's group with a group seeking a team for Northern Virginia.
On Tuesday night, the Northern Virginia group's organizer, Bart Fisher, said he had received "feelers" concerning a merger that would result in a group seeking a team that would eventually play in Northern Virginia.
"We've always had a clear understanding and clear game plan to bring baseball to Washington, and by that we mean to RFK Stadium," Dell said.
Meanwhile, the Baltimore Orioles' plan to move their spring training camp to Naples, Fla., in 1992 or '93, has run into problems. USF&G Corp. announced it will not exercise an option to buy a 445-acre site, 100 acres of which it would have donated to the Collier County government for the purpose of building the training facility.
Orioles senior vice president Tom Daffron said the club will seek a new partner in the deal for the site. If it cannot, it may have to look elsewhere, which could delay the opening of a training site past 1993.
In the meantime, the Orioles will continue to train in Sarasota and play home exhibition games at various sites.