The winter meetings ended with a big deal and more free agents getting big money.
San Diego and Toronto put a temporary halt to the money game when the Padres traded Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar to the Blue Jays for Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez in one of the biggest deals in baseball history.It was the kind of trade the callers usually suggest on radio talk shows late at night. But this one really happened.
"We thought we'd give you an old-fashioned baseball trade," new Padres general manager Joe McIlvaine said. "We're trading four All-Stars. It was kind of a gutsy trade on both ends."
Of course the day had its share of free-agent signings and a vote by the owners that will soon result in even more free agents and more million-dollar deals. While some teams left Rosemont Wednesday night, a few more free-agent signings and deals will probably occur today.
The New York Mets started the job of reshaping their offense after the loss of free agent Darryl Strawberry by signing Vince Coleman to a four-year deal for $11.95 milion. Coleman is now the highest paid player in club history.
"Regardless of the situation with Strawberry, we would've been interested in Vince Coleman," Mets general manager Frank Cashen said. "We knew we needed more speed and a leadoff hitter."
Coleman, 29, stole an average of 91 bases in each of six years, all with St. Louis, and was successful 83 percent of the time. He was at his best against the Mets, safely stealing the first 57 times he tried against them until Mackey Sasser nailed him this past season.
The Milwaukee Brewers kept their ace when they signed left-hander Teddy Higuera to a four-deal deal for $13 million late Wednesday night. Higuera was only 11-10 in 1990, but was hampered by injuries.
The Padres were making a serious bid to sign Higuera, offering four years.
"It was the realization that we probably weren't going to get him back to Milwaukee if we stayed on three years," Brewers general manager Harry Dalton said.
The $3.25 million average annual value of the contract ties him with Kansas City's Mark Davis as the third-highest paid pitcher in baseball behind Oakland's Dave Stewart.
The Blue Jays and Padres made the big news, though.
The Padres acquired Carter last Dec. 6 from Cleveland for catcher Sandy Alomar Jr., Chris James and Carlos Baerga. Alomar, Roberto's brother, went on to win the AL Rookie of the Year award.
Carter, 30, got off to a slow start for the Padres but ended up hitting 24 homers with 105 RBIs. In 1989, he hit 35 homers for the Indians and has averaged 109 RBIs the last five seasons.
If the Blue Jays can keep free agent left fielder George Bell, Carter will play right field with newcomer Devon White and Mookie Wilson in center.
McGriff, 27, hit .300 last season with 35 homers and 88 RBIs. In four major league seasons, he has totaled 125 homers and led the AL with 36 in 1989. He's also one the best defensive first basemen in the game.
"It all came together in the last 24 hours," McIlvaine said. "We decided to sleep on it, but I didn't get much sleep."
The Toronto media has tabbed the Blue Jays GM as "Stand Pat" Gillick because he didn't make many deals in the past.
"We've won a lot of games the last few years, but some people don't think we had much to show for it," Gillick said. "Trades are difficult. This was the time to shake things up."
The Blue Jays rallied from a six-game deficit in September, but ended up two games behind the Boston Red Sox.
In other moves, the San Francisco Giants, a day after signing Dave Righetti, traded reliever Steve Bedrosian to Minnesota. Pittsburgh's championship pie again got sliced as first baseman Sid Bream signed with Atlanta. That cleared the way for Franklin Stubbs, who was considering the Braves, to go to Milwaukee.The Pirates had 10 free agents to try and sign and lost one when Bream agreed to a three-year, $5.5 million deal with Atlanta.
"It tears your heart out a little bit to see when, in two weeks or so, you could lose six or seven players," Pirates manager Jim Leyland said. "We've come a long way since 1986 and it's a shame to see it happen."
The Pirates may also lose left-hander Zane Smith, who has been talking to the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago Cubs. On Wednesday, Pittsburgh offered Smith a four-year deal instead of three.
Bill Doran decided to stay at home in Cincinnati. But Pat Tabler, baseball's best bases-loaded hitter (40-for-80), left the Mets when he signed a two-year deal for $1.6 million with Toronto. And Tony Bernazard continued a recent trend of players returning from Japan by signing with Detroit.
The Braves had offered a three-year, $5.4 million contract to Stubbs. Instead, Stubbs, who set a Houston record with 23 home runs by a left-handed hitter last season, got a three-year, $6 million deal from the Brewers.
Doran drew interest from several teams, particularly Los Angeles, before deciding on the Reds. He was born in Cincinnati and traded from Houston to the Reds late last season. He received a three-year, $7.3 million contract to play second base.
The owners voted 25-1 Wednesday to accept the collusion agreement. The result will be to pay out $280 million in damages and 15 players being declared free agents.
The agreement will be voted on by the Players' Association today and approval is expected. In three or four days the 15 players, including Gary Gaetti, Dave Henderson, Brett Butler and Jack Clark, will be free to talk to other teams.
The owners also unanimously passed a resolution supporting the Player Development Committee. The resolution authorized the PDC to accept the proposal now on the table with the National Association.