Jack McKeon, general manager of the Padres, signed free-agent outfielder Fred Lynn ($650,000 for one year) and reliever Craig Lefferts ($5.35 million for three years) last December. He also traded for outfielder Joe Carter, who had told the Indians he would leave them for free agency after the 1990 season. The Padres gave Carter a three-year contract worth $9.2 million. "We spent a lot of money last year, and look where we are," says McKeon (page 38). "I don't know what other teams will do [about free agency], but we'll take a serious look."
John Schuerholz, general manager of the Royals, will also take a more cautious approach. "What has happened may cause some people to look at things differently," he says. "Just when you think the time has come for sanity to surface, it doesn't. Obviously, we were big players in the free-agent market last year, and our record [46-54 through Sunday] speaks for itself. There's no guarantee for performance, only for payment."
Cleveland general manager Hank Peters isn't sure what the market will be like in November. "No owner is crying poor man, but you have to ask yourself how many high-priced players you can have," says Peters. "Assuming you take care of your own players first, how much you can spread on free agents might be very slim. It used to be a painless way to build, but it isn't that way anymore. Look at the Athletics. They have a fine team, a very fine team. But their payroll next year may be $30 million. Can they let it go much higher? I don't know the answer to that one."
Still, as the sky-high prices for the 1989 free agents proved, the owners have learned their lesson on collusion. The possibility that damage awards to the 76 players involved in the most recent collusion arbitration may reach a total of $250 million should reinforce that knowledge. Thus, potential free agents like George Bell and Darryl Strawberry should still be able to command outlandish contracts. Willie McGee and Vince Coleman, who are having big seasons, should also do well. And the ever-present lack of pitching will mean that Teddy Higuera and Mike Boddicker will be in demand. However, lesser lights such as Juan Samuel and Phil Bradley may find that clubs are not as eager as they were last year to spend so lavishly.
Despite Michael Jordan's heroics in the batting cage in Chicago last week, there are probably more major leaguers who could hold their own in an NBA game than NBA players who could play big league baseball. "That's because our game is the hardest," says Cincinnati pitcher Tom Browning. With that in mind, here's our major league all-star basketball team.
Guards: DELINO DeSHIELDS, 6'1", Expos. A blur. Had signed to play guard at Villanova. Can do a 360-degree dunk. "I think I could play in the NBA," he says. TONY GWYNN, 5'11", Padres. Assist man. Played four years at San Diego State. "The guys here rag on me for only averaging eight points a game in my career," he says. ERIC DAVIS, 6'3", Reds. A high school star in Los Angeles, he scored 28 points a game as a senior. "If he wanted, he could be in the NBA," says Gwynn.
Forwards: LEE SMITH, 6'6", Cardinals. Played at Northwestern State in Louisiana. In his prime, Smith was a bull. DAVE WINFIELD, 6'6", Angels. Drafted by the Hawks in the fifth round of the 1973 NBA draft. "Kids only know about Bo Jackson playing two sports," says Winfield, "but I could have done it long before him."
Center: RANDY JOHNSON, 6'10", Mariners. Was offered a try-out with the Southern Cal basketball team. "People always ask me if I played," says Johnson, with a smile. "Sometimes I just tell them that I'm Tom Chambers."
FAIR TO MIDDLIN'