For the Texas Rangers, baseball's winter meetings really have been a big deal.

The Rangers came to terms this morning with free agent pitcher Nolan Ryan for one year plus an option in 1990. Ryan, baseball's all-time strikeout leader, has a career record of 273-253. He was 12-11 with Houston last season and led the National League with 228 strikeouts.On Tuesday, the Rangers followed up their nine-player blockbuster with the Chicago Cubs by acquiring second baseman Julio Franco from Cleveland for first baseman Pete O'Brien, outfielder Oddibe McDowell and infielder Jerry Browne.

In the only other deal on Tuesday, Philadelphia traded All-Star pitcher Kevin Gross to Montreal for starter Floyd Youmans and reliever Jeff Parrett. Parrett was 12-4, including 8-0 in extra-inning games.

Before Parrett was traded to the Phillies, he was offered to the New York Mets.

The Phillies, who finished last in the NL East at 65-96, wanted to improve their pitching when the season ended, but so far have traded their top two starters - Shane Rawley and Gross.

The bidding war continued for left-hander Bruce Hurst with three teams in the running.

The Phils also were busy completing details of Mike Schmidt's complicated contract and reached an agreement with the 39-year-old third baseman. Schmidt's package is worth $2.05 million.

The Phillies had announced Sunday that they reached agreement with Schmidt, but a last-minute snag developed.

The Rangers, who had not made a trade at the winter meetings since 1983, now have made three deals involving 15 players.

On Monday, Texas got Rafael Palmeiro - the second-leading hitter in the NL - from the Cubs and and made another minor swap with the New York Yankees.

"You don't come down here expecting to do anything. But we hoped to improve our offense, and we have," Texas general manager Tom Grieve said.

Franco hit .303 last season, tops among major league second baseman.

California on Tuesday increased its offer to Hurst to $5.5 million for three years, up from $4.9 million. San Diego has offered Hurst $5.25 million and Boston just over $5 million.

Hurst was 18-6 with a 3.66 earned-run average for the Red Sox last season.

Two free agents decided on Tuesday to return to their former clubs. Bill Buckner re-signed with Kansas City for about $400,000 and Jim Dwyer re-signed with Minnesota, both for one year.

Also Tuesday, two free agents were offered salary arbitration by their former clubs - Mike Flanagan by Toronto and Wayne Tolleson by the Yankees.

The New York Mets' talks with Atlanta about Dale Murphy stalled but more negotiating is scheduled.

Among the Mets who interest the Braves are Len Dykstra, Howard Johnson, Keith Miller and David West. New York also turned its attention to Cleveland outfielder Joe Carter.

The Mets also met with the Los Angeles Dodgers again and talked about New York second baseman Wally Backman.

Minnesota and the New York Yankees reached a dead end on a trade for Yankees outfielder Dave Winfield.

"We made an offer but when it came back they tore the deal apart, so I knew their wasn't much of a chance," Twins manager Tom Kelly said.

The Yankees then began discussing a trade that would send Winfield to the Chicago Cubs with another player for pitcher Rick Sutcliffe and shortstop Shawon Dunston.

Kelly said another Yankee might be playing in the Metrodome in 1989; the Twins are interested in free agent second baseman Willie Randolph.

There also was some wheeling and dealing going on amomg the owners.

The Baltimore Orioles made a $70-million deal when an agreement was reached to sell the team to former vice presidential candidate Sargent Shriver, team president Larry Luccino and private investor Eli Jacobs.

The Orioles were sold by Mrs. Agnes Williams, widow of the late Edward Bennett Williams. Jacobs will be the principal shareholder with Luccino, Shriver and Robert Shriver Jr. also having shares.

"Baltimore is a great baseball town. The new ownership will be dedicated to the rebuilding and future success of the franchise," Luccino said.

The sale must be approved by three-quarters of American League owners and a majority of National League owners. AL President Bobby Brown said a decision would be reached within 90 days and approval is expected.

But no decision was reached on the sale of the Rangers. Brown said the matter would be considered again in late January.