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Market forces will play out

Sides try to gauge effects of new deal

The Players Association will hold an informational session with player agents Tuesday to review the new Basic Agreement it reached with baseball owners. Management has already been given the 70-plus-page agreement, which is now in effect following the conclusion of the World Series.

Neither agents nor team officials have a full understanding of the nuances and/or loopholes in the agreement yet.

Will it increase free agent salaries and competition for those players? Will it reduce the number of trades, particularly of younger players, who will now be under the control of teams for an extra year? Will it increase payrolls across the board with a rising threshold tax (increased by almost $12 million)?

Red Sox principal owner John W. Henry has issued a "no comment" on the agreement. As a large-market team, the Sox must pay out a lot in revenue sharing, and are likely to spend close to the $148 million tax threshold.

According to Rich Hahn, assistant general manager of the White Sox and a Harvard Law School graduate, there will be major changes on two fronts: in the draft, and in the Rule 5 protection from three years to four.

"The extra year of Rule 5 protection affects approximately 800 players in major league baseball," said Hahn. "The ability for teams to have an extra year to make a determination on a player gives the teams a great deal of flexibility."

As for draft protection, if a team can't sign its pick, it receives the same pick the following year, which eases the pain.

The new Aug. 15 deadline for signing draft picks should also provide a drag on amateur draft salaries, and reduce what are often contentious negotiations.

"I think it definitely gives the team back some leverage," Hahn said.

The other interesting aspect of the agreement is the elimination of all the key free agent dates -- Jan. 8 (last day a club can re-sign its own free agents) and May 1 (the first day a player can re-sign with his former team if he hadn't already).

"The new CBA will level the playing field for a team losing a free agent," said longtime agent Randy Hendricks. "The prior system was put in as a response to the owners' collusion of the mid-to-late 1980s. The current belief that the parties have a very good working relationship has relieved many of those concerns. Hence, the Jan. 8 and May 1 dates have been abolished. This means that a team losing a free agent can negotiate continuously with that free agent under the same rules as the other 29 clubs. That did not exist over the past 16 or so years."

Said Hahn, "I think the benefit for the team would be that we have more time to evaluate the medical situation of a player. We've had that situation twice in Chicago with Magglio Ordonez and Frank Thomas. We've had to make a decision by a certain date. Where now we would be able to extend that indefinitely and have more information to deal with. It's not that we would have necessarily made a different decision with Ordonez or Thomas, but certainly we would have had more updated information to make our decision with."

While GMs such as Houston's Tim Purpura think the elimination of the Dec. 20 date to offer arbitration to your own free agents or the Jan. 8 date to sign them is a positive, agent Alan Nero feels, "It will help some and hurt others." When a team had to make a tough decision on a veteran free agent by a certain date, Nero felt more often than not the team chose to make the commitment.

One of the reasons Purpura likes the rule is because last season the Astros did not offer Roger Clemens arbitration by Dec. 20, and then weren't able to re-sign him until after May 1. In the end it didn't matter anyway, since Clemens didn't re-sign until June 22.

Agent Gregg Clifton thinks the new rules might affect the number of September call-ups. The minor league salary for a player with one year on the 40-man roster or one day of major league service has risen to $60,000 from $54,500. And players added to the 40-man for the first time will see a bit of a hike to $30,000 from the mid-20,000s.

All agree that the changes aren't drastic, and that labor peace is the most important thing.

College report on Bard

A few questions for the Tigers' No. 1 pick, lefthanded pitcher Andrew Miller:

Q. Red Sox No. 1 pick Daniel Bard was your teammate at the University of North Carolina. Tell me about his stuff.

AM: "He's a really good pitcher. He's got an unbelievable arm. He throws as hard as anybody you'll see. For a starter, he can get it up in the mid-to-upper 90s. It's real hard and his delivery is really free and easy. He doesn't muscle up anything. I talked to him while he was down in the instructional league and he was throwing 100 and 101 m.p.h. when he was down there and he was pretty excited about that."

Q. Throw harder than you?

AM: "He throws harder than me. Not even a question."

Q: What's he got?

AM: "He's got a slider and a changeup. He's been working on a curveball. He's worked on his other pitches. He certainly has a fastball. And I'm sure with the help he'll get from pitching instructors he'll refine those secondary pitches. But he features his fastball. I mean, I've seen a few other guys who throw as hard as he does, but for a starter, he's one of the hardest-throwing starters I've seen."

Q: Are you guys good friends?

AM: "Really good friends. Me and him were a couple of the last guys signed in the first round. We talked back and forth about what was going on during the negotiations and we were curious about how the other was doing. I think it went well for the both of us."

Q: Do you think he came close to going back to college?

AM: "I don't know. It's hard to let someone go back to school. He could have gone in the first 5-10 picks. Guys like that don't go back to school very often. I think he had it in the back of his mind just in case negotiations didn't work out."

Q: What's he need to get better at?

AM: "Same thing we all do as young pitchers. We need to learn to pitch in the big leagues. It's so much different than college. You've got great hitters here and they can hit a fastball. You have to learn to pitch. But he doesn't have any flaws, so when he learns that stuff, he'll be a top major league pitcher."

Harrington lost out when Leyland had a change of heart

Former Red Sox CEO John Harrington has always been a big fan of Detroit manager Jim Leyland. In fact, Harrington thought he had enticed him to become the Red Sox manager before the 1997 season, when Leyland ultimately declined and the Sox turned to Jimy Williams.

"I remember Dan [ Duquette] and I met him at an airport, and when we turned around and went home, we thought we had him hired," Harrington recalled. "Jim went back home and talked it over with his wife, who had gone to school in the Boston area, and she talked him out of it, feeling that she didn't want Jim exposed to the climate in Boston with the fans and the media and all of the attention.

"It's too bad, because he would have been a great manager in Boston, and to come that close to landing him was very disappointing."

It wasn't the first time Harrington had lost out on a big-name manager. He and Haywood Sullivan nearly came to terms on a two-year deal with Whitey Herzog. Another one that got away was Joe Torre, who was going to be hired had not "Morgan Magic" removed the "interim" status of Joe Morgan.

Harrington at one time was a candidate to be commissioner of baseball, but he said he didn't think he ever had the special attributes needed for the job. Harrington conducted statistical and financial studies for Bud Selig, and the two became very close.

"I enjoyed working on the committees and the special projects Bud had me involved with," said Harrington, who now runs the Yawkey Foundation, which gives millions of dollars to charitable ventures.

"Some of the things we worked on back then, like interleague play and revenue sharing, I think were good for the fans and good for the game. Bud has done a terrific job. The game is in excellent financial shape. It's great to see."


Touching the bases
Apropos of nothing: 1. Terry Francona doesn't think his foot infection will hinder his readiness for spring training. "It won't hinder me by next week," Francona said; 2. Our spies tell us Derek Jeter was hanging out in Barcelona with Michael Jordan last week; 3. My lasting memory of Nelson de la Rosa, who died last week, is the sight of Pedro Martínez cradling him like a baby during one of the 2004 clubhouse celebrations and feeding him a bottle of beer; 4. Ed Kenney's death is a reminder to all of us that in the end, it doesn't matter how many championships you won, how many players you produced, how many accolades you received. What you'll be remembered for is how you treated people; 5. For anyone who thought Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi paid too much for B.J. Ryan or A.J. Burnett, try to find a closer of any kind and try to find a No. 1 starter of Burnett's caliber (when healthy).

Presidential candidates
Hot talk at the World Series is that the Cubs and the Tribune Co. are looking at Detroit's Dave Dombrowski or Boston's Larry Lucchino to be president/CEO. Not so fast on Lucchino. "Nothing whatsoever to it," said Lucchino. "I like it right where I am, and this is where I want to be." Still, you could see the attraction, given the similarities between the Red Sox and Cubs and the ballpark. But as one baseball official said of the Cubs, "It's more of a baseball problem than an upper-management problem. They have made poor decisions with their major league team and their player development."

Where are those masked men?
One reason Theo Epstein's acquisition of George Kottaras was significant is the shortage of catchers in baseball. An international scout at the World Series said, "There aren't any catchers anywhere. I'm talking about catchers who could be top major league players. You can't find them in the States and you can't find them internationally. The best of them was Kenji Johjima [.291, 18 HRs, 76 RBIs for Seattle this season]." The catching market is so sparse that free agent Rod Barajas is likely to receive huge interest. The Rangers are not expected to re-sign him because they are committing to Gerald Laird. Barajas is a very good receiver, can throw out runners (usually in the high 30 percent range), and handles pitching staffs well. He also hit 21 homers in '05 and 11 this season.

Going nowhere
As more teams sign Venezuelan and Dominican players, there come the visa problems. The Braves recently had a workout planned for a recently signed Dominican player, but he couldn't get a visa in time and was told it would be a two- to three-month process. "The younger players get different visas than the established major leaguers," said an agent. "It's easier for the major leaguers to get them. What's happening is some of these kids have to stay in their country and work out at the team's academy for a couple of years."

Homing in on a new deal
When Tom Glavine negotiates his new deal with the Mets within the next two weeks, he may get a Roger Clemens-type clause that allows him to go home (to Atlanta) on weekends when he's not pitching. Glavine has until Nov. 10 to exercise an option (for $7.5 million), but he will decline. The Mets then hold an option for $14 million with a $2 million bonus. The sides are expected to meet in the middle. Glavine could opt to become a free agent and return to Atlanta to win his 300th game there, but he does enjoy the Mets.

San Francisco connection
With Bruce Bochy taking the Giants job, don't be surprised if Luis Gonzalez becomes a top priority in the Bay Area. Gonzalez is expected to receive quite a bit of interest in the open market -- particularly from American League teams seeking a DH -- but he is close to Bochy.

Out of left field
Forget about the White Sox going after Manny Ramírez; they don't see it as a fit. They do have extra pitching, though, and Freddy Garcia or Javier Vazquez could be dealt for an established left fielder so the White Sox can make room for Brandon McCarthy in the rotation. With the Yankees picking up Gary Sheffield's $13 million option, the White Sox might be tempted, though that might be more than they're willing to spend.

Dusting him off
With the market for closers desolate, look for teams, maybe even the Red Sox, to take a long look at Dustin Hermanson, whose $3.5 million option won't likely be picked up by the White Sox. Hermanson, who will turn 34 Dec. 21, is a risk in that he missed most of last season with back problems and has a history of injuries (including the groin strain he incurred with the Red Sox in 2002 that led to two stints on the disabled list). But when he's on, as he was for most of 2005 when he had 34 saves for the White Sox, he is nasty. Teams love his bulldog approach and split-fingered pitch.

Decision-making process
Bill Haselman has pretty much decided he's not going to take a managing job in the Red Sox organization, and is waiting to hear on his status as first base coach. Haselman was offered the Lowell Spinners job and thought about it long and hard. Because of family considerations -- he makes his home in Seattle -- Haselman is still undecided about his future. Recently, the Red Sox sought and were denied permission to speak with Marlins coach Perry Hill, a sign that Haselman could be moving on.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at; material from personal interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.

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