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Dodgers Keep Their Promise With Karros

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Expressing appreciation of Eric Karros’ contributions, the Dodgers rewarded their longtime first baseman with a multiyear contract extension Friday, elevating Karros among the game’s highest-paid players at his position.

Committing to the fans’ favorite player, the Dodgers gave Karros a three-year contract with an option, guaranteeing him $24 million. Karros will receive a $1.5-million signing bonus and salaries of $7 million in 2001, $6.5 million in 2002 and $8 million in 2003.

He will make $9 million in 2004 if the Dodgers exercise their option, which will kick in if Karros has 500 plate appearances in 2003. The Dodgers can buy out the final year for $1 million if Karros does not meet that requirement.

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The deal could be worth as much as $32 million for Karros, who this season is making $5 million in the final year of a four-year, $20-million contract. The $8-million average annual value puts Karros in elite company.

Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals, Rafael Palmeiro of the Texas Rangers and Mo Vaughn of the Angels head the list of first basemen at $9 million this season. Vaughn’s six-year, $80-million deal is the richest, and his $13.3-million average salary also sets the mark for first basemen.

“Eric represents the Dodgers so well in so many ways,” said Bob Daly, managing general partner, during a conference call. “Besides his unbelievable talent as a player, what he stands for and the way he’s handled himself in his whole career means so much to the team.

“Eric is a person whom I, and the rest of Dodger organization, feel very strongly about. He’s the type of person we want to be a long-term player with the Dodgers.”

Besides giving Karros a raise, Daly also provided peace of mind for a player seemingly always on the trading block. He included a no-trade clause for the first two years of the contract, enabling Karros to reject deals.

Karros will become a 10-and-5 player--10 years’ major league service, five with one team--after the second year of the extension, and players in that category can reject trades even without no-trade clauses. However, Karros waived his 10-and-5 rights as part of the deal.

Karros said he hopes to remain a Dodger for the rest of his career and credited Daly for making that goal attainable.

“I just want to thank Bob Daly for giving me an opportunity to continue my career here in Los Angeles,” said Karros, scheduled to arrive at Dodgertown for spring training Tuesday. “Going into this off-season, I was very hopeful that we would be able to work out an extension, and I don’t think I ever doubted it would happen. But as I’ve found in this game, until it actually happens, there’s always a chance that something you want or desire may not happen.

“Until we finally came to an agreement and I signed the deal [Thursday night], there’s always that uncertainty. But it’s something, without question, I’ve always wanted from Day 1. Bob Daly is definitely a man of his word.”

While working to acquire and sign all-star outfielder Shawn Green in November, Daly told agent Jeff Moorad, who represents Green and Karros, that he wanted to extend Karros’ contract as soon as possible. Shortly after completing the Green deal Nov. 8, Daly, Moorad and Karros had lunch at Daly’s home.

Karros reaffirmed his desire to remain in Los Angeles, and Daly said he wanted Karros. But he also told Karros that he would have to be patient while the Dodgers tried to make other moves to strengthen the roster.

His off-season work done, Daly refocused his efforts on Karros this week.

“Without a doubt, Bob Daly, [General Manager] Kevin Malone and [team counsel] Sam Fernandez deserve a tremendous amount of credit for being men of their word,” Moorad said. “Sure enough, when we finally did have an opportunity to get at the contract itself, it did not take an enormously long time to put together.

“In fact, it came together quite easily. That’s a testimony to Eric Karros, who has achieved tremendous things for this organization on and off the field for a long time.”

Karros, 32, is coming off a career season. He batted .304 with 34 home runs and 112 runs batted in. He had more homers and RBIs than every National League first baseman except McGwire, Jeff Bagwell of the Houston Astros and Todd Helton of the Colorado Rockies.

Beginning his ninth full season, Karros needs 18 homers to overtake Ron Cey for first place on the Los Angeles franchise list. The 1992 NL rookie of the year has withstood several challenges for his job, finishing among the club’s leaders in homers and RBIs each season.

He represents the Dodgers at charitable functions and, unlike some athletes, does not seek publicity for his efforts to help others, team officials said.

“We took into consideration everything Eric has done in a Dodger uniform,” Malone said. “Not only what he does on the field, where he consistently puts up 30-plus [homers] and 100-plus [RBIs], but what he does in the community to help others so much.

“This contract is a reward to Eric Karros, but it’s also a reward to Dodger fans. It’s a reward because of everything Eric has done for them.”

*

ROCKER TALK: On the first day of spring training for the Atlanta Braves, John Rocker was still the hot topic. Page 9

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

The Deal

* No-trade clause

* $1.5-million bonus

* $7 million in 2001

* $6.5 million in 2002

* $8 million in 2003

* $9 million in 2004 if Dodgers exercise their option

ROCKER TALK:

On the first day of spring training for the Atlanta Braves, John Rocker was still the hot topic. Page 9

Eric Karros By the Numbers

Eric Karros’ statistics the last five seasons:

*--*

Year Games HR RBI AVG. 1999 153 34 112 .304 1998 139 23 87 .296 1997 162 31 104 .266 1996 154 34 111 .260 1995 143 32 105 .298 Avg. 150.2 30.8 103.8 .285

*--*

*

All-Time Ranking Among L.A. Dodgers

HOME RUNS

211

Tied for second with Steve Garvey

(Ron Cey leads, 228)

RBIs

734*

Fourth (Garvey leads, 992)

DOUBLES

225

Fourth (Garvey leads, 338)

HITS

1,217

Seventh (Willie Davis leads, 2,091)

RUNS

574

Eighth (Davis leads, 1,004)

*--tied for 10th all time among Brooklyn/L.A. players with Jackie Robinson.


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