Here is what may be a final look at three of baseball's buddy-can-you-spare-a-mil free agents in their 1986 uniforms. Along with the four other illustrious wanderers on these pages, Boone, Guidry and Dawson can't return to their old clubs until May 1, meaning they probably won't be back at all. Having spurned salary offers from those teams, the players are gambling that they can strike more lucrative deals with other clubs. But in this era of tightfisted owners, the risk is that when a bid comes, it may not match what the player turned down. Worse, there could be no bid at all, leaving a free agent to slink back to his former team or sit out the entire season. But that seems unlikely; there is too much talent here for any but the stingiest front office to turn down.
The Angels' last offer barely matched their catcher's 1986 salary of $800,000. Boone insisted on a raise. At 39, and coming off a .222 season, he might not find many takers. Still, he is one of the league's finest defensive catchers, and what club couldn't use his steadying manner with young pitchers? Boston is a possibility; his father is a Red Sox scout.
The Yankees' bid fell just $50,000 short, even after Guidry dropped his asking price to $1.75 million for two years. Some believe that owner George Steinbrenner felt his former mainstay was finished after going 9-12 in his 11th season, and he never really intended to sign him. Guidry, 36, could be replaced in the rotation by 43-year-old Tommy John.
After batting .284 in '86, he may be past his prime, but Dawson is still likely to get more than the $2 million, two-year deal the Expos offered. The outfielder could be bound for the Cubs, where the natural grass at Wrigley Field will cushion his bad legs and the daytime ball is to his liking.
Detroit's offer of $2.4 million over two years was not good enough for Parrish, who earned $850,000 while hitting 22 home runs in 1986. Though the Yankees insist that Joel Skinner is their catcher of the future, Parrish could be their catcher of 1987. Otherwise, the Phillies might land him in their attempt to close the gap on the Mets.
Atlanta offered its slugger a three-year package at $4.5 million, or a one-year deal at $1.3 million. Horner, who drove in 87 runs in '86, insisted on three years at $5.4 million. The oft-injured first baseman will probably wind up on an American League team's disabled list as a designated hitter.
Boston's All-Star catcher wanted a one-year contract for $1.1 million and free agency again in 1988. The Red Sox countered with a $2.65 million offer over three seasons. The defending American League champs are now facing the '87 season with Marc Sullivan, team owner Haywood Sullivan's son and a .193 hitter, behind the plate.
Raines won the National League batting title (.334), then turned down the Expos' offer of $4.8 million over three years. Raines wants more money and a place in the sun—preferably on a California club that gets the kind of media exposure Montreal just can't provide. A legitimate superstar, Raines won't be unemployed for very long and will likely get what he wants.
RONALD C. MODRA
RONALD C. MODRA