Jack Clark, Jack Morris and 14 others players will become new-look free agents soon, and owners will give players more than a quarter of a billion dollars to settle the collusion cases.
Management agreed to settle the three conspiracy cases for a payment that will total $280 million on Jan. 2, several agents and lawyers familiar with the agreement said this weekend.As part of the deal, the 16 players will be given the chance to leave their teams and become free agents again.
The others who will be made new-look free agents are Atlanta pitcher Charlie Liebrandt, Boston pitcher Larry Andersen, California outfielder Chili Davis, Detroit catcher Mike Heath, Houston pitchers Danny Darwin and Dave Smith, Minnesota pitcher Juan Berenguer and third baseman Gary Gaetti, Montreal pitcher Dennis Martinez, New York Yankees pitchers Dave LaPoint and Mike Witt, Oakland outfielder Dave Henderson, and San Francisco outfielder Brett Butler and pitcher Mike LaCoss.
Players' association head Donald Fehr, who is in Tokyo on baseball's postseason goodwill tour, confirmed that certain understandings had been reached in the collusion cases but didn't go into details.
Chuck O'Connor, head of management's Player Relations Committee, would not discuss numbers or the new-look free agency but said discussions had intensified although a deal had not been agreed to.
"Until everything is agreed to, nothing is agreed to," O'Connor said from Scottsdale, Ariz.
A source involved in the deal confirmed that the sides settled on the $280 million figure and the new-look free agency in a handshake agreement between the lawyers on Oct. 26. A $280 million payment would amount to $10,769,230 for each of the 26 clubs, by far the largest payment ever made by teams to players in the history of sports.
The source said that all other details of the agreement will have to be worked out before it can be presented for ratification to the 26 clubs and the executive board of the Major League Baseball Players Association.
For instance, the sides have not agreed when the payment actually will be made. If it is not made on Jan. 2, the sides will have to agree on an interest rate between then and the date of the payment.
In addition, a mechanism must be determined to break down the total into payments to individual players. Union lawyers estimate approximately 300 players are involved in the cases.
"We've thought about it a lot, and that's a lot of what the settlement discussions will entail," Fehr said.
Neither side has addressed tax implications of a deal, such as in which years the players and clubs would claim payments on their taxes.
Also, the union wants owners to agree on guidelines to salary arbitrators this winter which would take into account shortfalls to player salaries caused by collusion. For example, they could agree that for purposes of arbitration salaries should have been a certain percentage higher in 1990 than they actually were.
Under new-look free agency, players can keep their current contracts or for a limited period void their deals and sign a new agreement with any team. This is the method Kirk Gibson used to leave the Detroit Tigers and sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers after the 1987 season.
"The best guess is this would happen in early January and run for about a six-to-eight-week period," Fehr said.
The collusion cases were filed by the union after teams departed from past practice and in October 1985 began shunning free agents. Arbitrator Thomas Roberts found the owners guilty of collusion following the 1985 season, and arbitrator George Nicolau found them guilty following the 1986 and 1987 seasons.
The two have awarded preliminary damages of $113 million but have not yet ruled on a variety of damage claims, including interest and extended damages through the 1989 and 1990 seasons.