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Team Ready to Offer Beltre a Three-Year Deal

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Dodger Chairman Bob Daly and agent Scott Boras agreed on the length of a multiyear contract for Adrian Beltre during a two-hour meeting Tuesday at Dodgertown and will meet again today to try to complete a deal.

The Dodgers are prepared to offer the young third baseman a three-year contract if Beltre ends his four-month pursuit of free agency. The Major League Players Assn. filed a grievance on behalf of Beltre after Commissioner Bud Selig ruled in December that the Dodgers violated major league rules in signing him before his 16th birthday but permitted the ballclub to retain his rights.

“We’re not going to go over three years,” said Boras, who began negotiating with Daly on Monday while traveling to Dodgertown aboard Daly’s jet. “There are so many factors that you have to look at in this situation, but we’re trying to keep it simple.”

Daly and Boras declined to discuss proposed financial terms, but Boras submitted an analysis to Daly that, among other things, compared Beltre--through his first full season--favorably with players making at least $5 million per season. Beltre made $220,000 last season while batting .275 with 15 home runs, 27 doubles and 67 runs batted in.

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The Dodgers are open to a deal longer than three years that includes club options, but Boras apparently is not. He wants Beltre to become a free agent when he’s eligible after the 2004 season and doesn’t want to give up more than one year of arbitration. Players become eligible for arbitration after three full seasons of service. Because Beltre has less than three years’ service time, the Dodgers could renew his contract for this season at whatever figure they choose by Thursday, though that appears unlikely unless they can’t work out a deal before then.

Baseball officials are monitoring the developments closely, fearing the free-spending Dodgers will offer a contract considered excessive for a player with only one full season in the big leagues.

The $105-million signing of Kevin Brown is still on the minds of many, and the Dodgers have been criticized privately by competitors for many of their financial decisions during the Fox era. Moreover, some officials have encouraged Daly to let the arbitration process unfold, figuring the Dodgers have a good case.

But that strategy would be risky for the Dodgers even if they prevail. Although Beltre lacks enough service time to demand a trade, he still could request to be traded, and the Dodgers would experience another messy public fight after two seasons of turmoil.

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Daly reiterated Tuesday that he’d “love the cloud to be lifted,” but he won’t do anything “stupid.”

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Right-hander Mike Fetters suffered a strained left quadriceps muscle during a rundown play in Tuesday’s intrasquad game.

Manager Davey Johnson said Fetters, who pitched one scoreless inning, might be sidelined two weeks. Fetters disagreed.

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“A couple of days, and I’ll be good to go,” said Fetters, competing to make the 25-man roster. “This thing ain’t going to stop me. I won’t let it.”

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Left-hander Onan Masaoka’s sprained left ankle is healing more quickly than expected, and the second-year pitcher hopes to begin throwing off a mound soon.


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