Jack Morris elected to become a free agent on Tuesday, and reliever Juan Berenguer left the Minnesota Twins and signed with the Atlanta Braves for $2.1 million over two years.
The Twins, however, got a player back when they signed outfielder Chili Davis for one year at a guaranteed $2 million, including a $500,000 signing bonus. The Twins have an option of a $300,000 buyout in 1992, or must pay $2.5 million. The 1992 deal could increase to $2,725,000 based on 1991 bonuses for up to 140 games and 600 plate appearances.Davis hit .265 with 12 homers and 58 RBIs for the California Angels last season.
Two other new-look free agents, San Francisco pitcher Mike LaCoss and Yankees left-hander Dave LaPoint, received no new offers as of Tuesday's midnight deadline and remain under contract to their current teams.
The five were among 15 players granted new-look free agency Dec. 7 as part of the $280 million collusion settlement. The 15 had until Tuesday deadline to re-sign with their clubs, stay with their teams under their existing contracts or become free agents.
Morris chose the third option and thus abandoned both his roster spot with Detroit and his salary arbitration case. The pitcher had been asking for $3.35 million, while the Tigers were offering $9.3 million over three years according to Detroit spokesman Dan Ewald. Morris's salary in 1990 was $2.1 million.
Richard Moss, the pitcher's agent, said the Tigers had offered a multi-year deal and that other teams were interested in Morris, the winningest pitcher of the 1980s. But he indicated he was unsatisfied with other teams' offers when he said, "Jack has no interest in a one-year contract."
Moss, who would not identify the other teams, said he believed the Tigers still were interested in attempting to re-sign the 35-year-old Morris, who was 15-18 last season with a 4.51 ERA. However, no Detroit officials could immediately be reached for their reaction.
Morris' decision left 112 players remaining in salary arbitration. Pitcher Jerry Don Gleaton and Detroit agreed Tuesday to a one-year contract for $510,000, a raise of $334,000, and catcher Charlie O'Brien and the New York Mets settled at $300,000, a $135,000 raise.
Berenguer, 36, was 8-5 with a 3.41 ERA and no saves in 51 relief appearances last season with the Twins.
"Berenguer's a talented, hard-throwing pitcher who could fit into our staff in a number of ways," Atlanta general manager John Schuerholz said. "He brings experience and durability to an essentially young group of pitchers."
Berenguer actually took a slight pay cut for 1991 to come to the Braves and get an extra guaranteed year on his contract. Under his two-year, $1.9 million deal with the Twins, Berenguer would have made $1.05 million in 1991. Atlanta will pay him $900,000 this season and $1.2 million in 1992.
Davis was scheduled to make $1.45 million in 1991, the final season in a three-year, $4.1 million contract with California.
LaPoint had no other offers and opted to stay with the Yankees, who must pay him $900,000 in 1991 even if they release him.
LaCoss was talking with teams but didn't have any definite offers. He is to be paid $1.3 million this season by San Francisco, which has an option for 1992 at $1.3 million with a $100,000 buyout.