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Dodgers Are Set to Make Record Offer

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Dodgers are expected to redefine the international free-agent market today, giving a 16-year-old shortstop from the Dominican Republic an unprecedented $2.25-million signing bonus, The Times has learned.

The Dodgers declined comment Sunday on their negotiations with the representative of Irvin Joel Guzman, whom they plan to sign on the first day foreign players are eligible to join clubs under major league rules.

However, sources said Guzman’s package will establish a new mark for a player 16, the minimum signing age.

The bonus will surpass the previous record of $1.8 million, which the Florida Marlins established in the 1999 signing of Venezuelan shortstop Miguel Cabrera.

The Dodgers outbid the Angels, Atlanta Braves, Marlins, New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners for the rights to Guzman, a supposedly gifted 6-foot-4, 195-pound high schooler from the town of Ingenio Quesqueya, about 20 minutes north of San Pedro de Macoris.

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“He worked hard, for over a year, in workouts with all the teams that wanted to see him,” said Guzman’s agent, Rob Plummer, who also declined comment on the terms of the signing bonus.

“There were a lot of teams that were interested in him. The Dodgers definitely know what they’re getting.”

The Dodgers’ efforts in the Dominican Republic apparently have not been affected by sanctions Commissioner Bud Selig levied in 1999 for their deceit in the early signing of third baseman Adrian Beltre.

In fact, one of the key figures in Beltre’s case, Pablo Peguero, played a role in the recruitment of Guzman, Plummer said.

Selig suspended Peguero, a former scout who signed Beltre when he was 15, for one year because of his involvement.

The Dodgers promoted Peguero to director of baseball operations in the Dominican Republic after his suspension, and Plummer said he impressed Guzman.

“He liked the people with the Dodgers the most, especially Pablo Peguero,” said Plummer, who also negotiated a $1.4-million signing bonus for Dodger minor league third baseman Willy Aybar.

“He also liked the fact that Campo Las Palmas [the club’s baseball academy] is close to his house. He really wanted to sign with the Dodgers.”

Baseball sources said the Dodgers aggressively pursued Guzman because they did not have a first-round draft pick this season, and lack major prospects at the double-A and triple-A levels.

The Dodgers chose Garden Grove Santiago High pitcher Brian Pilkington with the 68th selection overall. Pilkington received a $600,000 signing bonus.

Team officials will meet with Guzman’s parents and Plummer today in the Dominican Republic to complete a transaction that will undoubtedly increase support for a worldwide draft.

Foreign players not subject to the June first-year draft have received escalating bonuses because of bidding wars, prompting owners to complain.

Not surprisingly, agents are opposed to a worldwide draft, and the issue could be among the sticking points in the upcoming collective-bargaining negotiations.

The free-spending Dodgers have come under industry fire for their signings of major leaguers, including Kevin Brown’s record-setting, $105-million contract and Darren Dreifort’s $55-million deal.

Now, the Dodgers are under the spotlight again after setting the bar higher internationally.


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