The Cubs desperately require a lefthander, but 17 other teams indicated a desire to poach Trout, and his agent, Alan Hendricks, says they are perfectly happy to wait and listen. "We're talking seriously with nine clubs," says Hendricks. Said Trout recently, "I would like a three-or four-year deal, but I don't care too much about the length." Chicago is Trout's hometown, and pitching coach Billy Connors is, as Trout says, "my avatar." But Chicago's first two offers didn't dazzle Trout and Hendricks. Trout can afford to play the waiting game. If Sutcliffe signs on elsewhere, the Cubs will have to meet Trout's price—or forget the pennant in '85.
Stoddard, who is represented by Eckersley's agent, Ed Keating, was drafted by nine teams, and although he liked pitching for Chicago, he does hanker for a job as the save man in a bullpen. "I never sign before January anyway," he says. The waiting game could pay off in a big way for Stoddard, too, especially if the reports about the Braves' 30-year, $48 million deal with reliever Bruce Sutter prove true. ( Atlanta's actual cost would be about $9 million.) The signing could take place this week. If it happens, Stoddard might replace Sutter as Toronto's top relief choice. Poor Green. There are vultures everywhere, but he's an aggressive G.M., as he proved in '84.
A year ago, Sutcliffe was with the Indians, Eckersley the Red Sox, Stoddard the A's and Trout the Unfulfilled Potentials. Who's to say Green couldn't put together another staff? But Green says he can't. "I gave up some pretty good players to get them [ Bill Buckner, Joe Carter and Mel Hall, among others], and you can't keep doing that. I was a little lucky, but I was also taking the risk I couldn't sign them after the season."
Like Sutcliffe, Green has been at sea, figuratively and literally. Before Thanksgiving, he was on a special Cubs Caribbean cruise where fans got to mingle with some of the players and manager Jim Frey. Says Green, "People kept coming up to me and saying, 'Are you gonna get Sutcliffe?...Are you gonna get Trout?...Are you gonna get Eckersley?...Are you gonna get Stoddard?' Each time I got asked, I would stick out my hand and say, 'How much money are you willing to give me?' "
Cub fans are still on a slight high, even after dropping the last three games of the playoffs to San Diego. The thought that Sutcliffe would sign with the Padres, though, is a prospect they find slightly abhorrent. As Bernie Lincicome, columnist for the Chicago Tribune, wrote, "Joining the team that beat Sutcliffe in the last Cub game of the year would be as tasteless as an accused murderer marrying the victim's widow." Lincicome further argued that "he should show the proper gratitude [for being rescued from Cleveland] by allowing the Cubs to make him obscenely well-to-do. He owes Chicago that—the city, not the team. He left a season and a dream unfinished when he walked off the mound in San Diego."
That view is a bit hard perhaps, but no harder than Sutcliffe has been on himself for blowing a 3-0 sixth-inning lead in the final playoff game. "I'm not over it yet," says Sutcliffe, "and I may never be. But I can't think about my past now. I have to think about my future, what's best for me and Robin and my little girl for the next five years.
" Kansas City is my home. San Diego is a nice place to play in, and they have a great team. And last year, just like a lot of people, I became a Cub fan. I'm not going to pretend money has nothing to do with it, but I'm not going to turn this into an auction. Of course, I do have six more mouths to feed. My hunting beagle, Opie, just had a litter."
The Royals and Padres have been doing the most serious courting, so far. Sutcliffe is a little puzzled that the Cubs haven't tried harder. "We got one offer before the draft, but it was the same contract I had last year."
Recently, Sutcliffe and Kansas City general manager John Schuerholz played a round of golf at Lakewood Country Club, which was supposed to be closed that day. For three hours, they talked about the Royals and laughed at each other's shots. The next night, at the exclusive Kansas City Club, the Sutcliffes and Axelrod dined with the Schuerholzes and the Royals' two principal owners, Ewing Kauffman and Avron Fogelman. The mayor of Kansas City, Dick Berkley, dropped by to chat. Then the governor of Missouri, Kit Bond, came around and talked hunting and children with Sutcliffe. At that point, Axelrod turned to Kauffman and said, "If President Reagan drops in, we give up."
In the meantime, a letter-writing campaign was organized in Kansas City by Dave Lawrence, a disc jockey on WDAF and a friend of Sutcliffe's. The Sutcliffes are still receiving 30 letters a day at their farm in Lee's Summit, Mo. Their nearest neighbor is K.C.'s Frank White.