The upcoming expansion draft will mean a great deal of uncertainty for the front-office officials of the 26 existing teams, but it could mean something else altogether to the players who populate the fringe of each club's major-league roster.
It could mean opportunity, even if that means playing for a team that has almost no chance to contend in its early years.
Take the Orioles, for instance. There are a number of players who would welcome the opportunity to play more regularly -- and may get the chance if they are left unprotected when the Florida Marlins and Colorado Rockies each select 36 players from around the major leagues on Nov. 17.
"It's not going to do me any good sitting around here getting 150 at-bats a year," said first baseman David Segui, whose name has been mentioned among those players who could be attractive to a young, developing team.
Segui has been caught in a numbers game in Baltimore. He was considered one of the American League's top young hitting prospects when he came to the major leagues, but he has been stuck behind Glenn Davis and Randy Milligan on the first-base depth chart. The physical problems that have forced Davis into the designated-hitter role have gotten Segui some late-inning playing time, but not enough to establish himself as a quality major-league player.
He welcomes the possibility of being chosen in the expansion draft, but said he doesn't think it will come to that.
"I see them [the Orioles] making a choice before then," he said. "I think Randy or me has got to go. I can't see it getting to the point where I'll be drafted, because I think there will be a lot of movement before then by teams that figure they might as well make a deal because they are going to lose the players anyway."
There also has been speculation that the Orioles might choose to leave Milligan unprotected, hoping that his $1.05 million salary and his soft offensive stats will make him unattractive to the Marlins and Rockies.
Segui has no complaints about the treatment he has gotten in Baltimore, but isn't enamored with the prospect of being a utility player.
"This year, I've been able to do it because we've been winning and I've beenin a position to help us win," Segui said. "But when you play once every 10 days, you put up bootleg numbers because you never get a chance to get into a rhythm. It can be frustrating."
The expansion draft has been a beacon for third-string catcher Mark Parent, a five-year major-league veteran who worked his way back from a serious knee injury to play every day for the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings this year.
Parent doesn't figure to get substantial playing time next year in Baltimore. His defensive skills and experience could make him a perfect expansion player.
"That definitely has crossed my mind," Parent said. "That's one of the things that motivated me when I was rehabilitating my knee and when I was at Rochester, because there didn't seem to be a lot of opportunity for me here.
"I played in the National League. I know the hitters and the pitchers. My health is fine."
The protected lists are confidential, but it isn't all that difficult to figure out who will and won't be on the one the Orioles will submit. The club has to protect the nucleus of the pitching staff (Mike Mussina, Ben McDonald, Arthur Rhodes, Gregg Olson, Todd Frohwirth and Alan Mills). It will have to protect the cornerstones of the offensive lineup (Cal Ripken, Brady Anderson, Mike Devereaux, Hoiles and Leo Gomez). Glenn Davis must be protected because he has a no-trade clause. That leaves just three spots open.
Outfielder Chito Martinez knows that the club isn't going to use one of those spots for him, and that might be just as well. He made a big impression when he came up in 1991, but he has played little this year. His low service time and extensive minor-league experience make him another possible expansion player.
"I would think I have a shot, based on my numbers from last year and the fact that I haven't had a chance to play every day," he said.
The list goes on. Right-hander Bob Milacki has enough promise to be attractive, but his arbitration-induced $1.18 million salary could be a problem. If one of the expansion teams selects him, he would have to be tendered a contract worth at least $944,000 for the 1993 season.
Right-hander Anthony Telford was prominent in the mock draft that was published in USA Today Baseball Weekly. Left-hander Jim Poole has enhanced his chances with several solid performances in September. Mark Williamson also could be vulnerable now that he has established that his arm is healthy.
The club is expected to leave Bill Ripken and Mark McLemore unprotected for the first of the draft's three rounds, then protect at least one of them in the second round. Both infielders may be too close to free-agent eligibility to be strong expansion prospects.
The Orioles do not have to protect players with free-agent eligibility. They can hold off re-signing potential free agents Rick Sutcliffe and Joe Orsulak until after the draft, but they run the risk of losing them on the free-agent market.
"It's hard to predict what will happen," manager Johnny Oates said recently. "There are just too many variables. I don't know who's going to be back.
"I don't even know if there is going to be baseball next year."
Date: Nov. 17, 1992
Site: Marriott Marquis Hotel, New York
Players who can be drafted: All players are eligible to be drafted, except those with no major-league experience who have less than three years professional service if signed at age 19 or older, or have less than four years of service if signed at age 18 or younger.
Who can and must be protected: Of the players eligible, each major-league team may protect 15 players. Players with "10-5" protection (10 years major-league service/five with the same club) and players with no-trade clauses for the 1993 season must be included on the 15-man protected list unless they waive their rights.
Submission of protected lists: If the World Series ends in four games, the deadline for submitting protected lists will be Nov. 6. If the World Series runs five games or more, the deadline will be Nov. 10.
Draft procedure: The draft will last three rounds. The order of draft will be determined by coin flip. The team that wins the toss may elect to draft first in the first round and second in the following two rounds, or draft second in the first round and first in the following two rounds. In the first round, the Rockies and Marlins will alternate turns until one player is drafted from each major-league team. Prior to the second round, each American League team will be allowed to protect four additional players and each National League team will be allowed to protect three additional players. The same procedure will apply to the third round. In that final round, each National League team will lose a player, but only eight of the 14 American League teams will lose a player. When the draft is complete, each expansion team will have acquired 36 players.