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Dodgers Draw Fire but Also Close In on Getting Drew

Times Staff Writer

While ducking fallout from torpedoing a 10-player, three-team trade that at least temporarily has kept Randy Johnson from becoming a New York Yankee, the Dodgers on Wednesday assessed their options, roster and reputation.

Several Dodger sources strenuously objected to the characterization by Yankee President Randy Levine that the deal had been “agreed to ... unequivocally and with no contingencies except for a window for contract extensions and physicals.”

The Dodgers are adamant that no agreement was reached and are relieved that General Manager Paul DePodesta did not cave in to pressure from the Yankees to complete an unfavorable deal.

The result is that Shawn Green, Brad Penny, Yhency Brazoban and Kazuhisa Ishii remain Dodgers. Green, Penny and Brazoban would have gone to the Arizona Diamondbacks and Ishii to the Yankees.

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In a separate move, free-agent outfielder J.D. Drew is scheduled to take a physical today, the last step in joining the Dodgers for five years at $55 million, significantly more per year than the team offered free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre.

Beltre and Drew both broke into the big leagues in 1998, but because of injuries Drew has about 1,000 fewer at-bats. Beltre has a .274 average with 147 home runs and 510 runs batted in. Drew is hitting .287 with 127 homers and 373 RBIs.

Drew’s on-base percentage of .391 and slugging percentage of .513 are superior to Beltre’s numbers of .332 and .463. Beltre, of course, had a breakout season in 2004, finishing second in National League most-valuable-player voting.

The Dodgers are reluctant to say they essentially chose Drew over Beltre, who rejected an offer of $60 million over six years, preferring to characterize the situation as a product of timing. In other words, once Beltre signed with the Seattle Mariners for five years at $65 million, the Dodgers’ need for a power hitter became critical enough that they couldn’t be outbid on Drew.

Despite the imminent addition of Drew, the focus Wednesday remained on how the trade unraveled. DePodesta and Dodger co-owner Frank McCourt declined to comment, but a source familiar with the negotiations said the Dodgers learned Sunday night that Javier Vazquez -- the key player they would be getting from the Yankees -- did not want to leave the East Coast and would refuse to take a physical.

The Yankees had been aware of Vazquez’s reluctance but had not informed the Dodgers, the source said. Vazquez told the Dodgers that last season his wife and two young children were able to fly from New Jersey to visit family in Puerto Rico during Yankee trips, and that such an arrangement would be difficult from Los Angeles.

The Dodgers were already having misgivings about the proposed deal, which also would have netted two Yankee prospects and Diamondback reliever Mike Koplove. Vazquez’s reluctance was the last straw.

Levine said the Dodgers broke their word and that the Yankees will have to “think long and hard before ever doing business with the Dodgers again.” However, a source said Levine never expressed such outrage in conversations with McCourt about the trade.

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Yankee General Manager Brian Cashman briefly addressed the situation during a news conference to announce the signing of pitcher Carl Pavano, suggesting that the Dodgers insisted Monday night that the players take physicals by Wednesday afternoon, a stipulation Cashman characterized as unfeasible because Vazquez is vacationing in the Virgin Islands.

“Vazquez did nothing wrong here,” Cashman said. “If I was Javy Vazquez, I would have done the same thing. I would not have left my family in St. John and flown halfway around the world.”

The Yankees and Diamondbacks will try to hash out another means of moving Johnson. DePodesta, though, has other concerns, such as adding much-needed starting pitching despite having shoveled most available Dodger payroll to Drew.

The Dodgers say they can add one front-line pitcher without trading Green and continue to insist that the payroll will be close to $100 million, second only to the New York Mets in the National League.

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DePodesta has said he is not initiating trade talks regarding Green. However, Drew is expected to play right field, which means Green would play first base and Hee-Seop Choi would come off the bench. DePodesta likes Choi and was comfortable giving him the starting job had Green been traded.

DePodesta values on-base percentage, and Drew ranked fourth in the National League last season at .436, walking 118 times and batting .305. He also hit a career-high 31 home runs, scored 118 runs and drove in 93 in 145 games.

The concern with Drew has always been his health. He had major surgery in October 2002 to partially remove the patella tendon in his right knee but was back in the lineup before doctors predicted, appearing in 100 games for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2003.

He also pulled an abdominal muscle that season and had only 283 at-bats. Before last season, the most games Drew had appeared in during his seven-year career was 135.

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Ten former Dodger players will coach in the team’s farm system in 2005, including former batterymates Bob Welch and Steve Yeager. Welch will serve as the pitching coach at rookie-level Ogden (Utah), and Yeager will be a coach at double-A Jacksonville (Fla.).

Dave Anderson, head coach at the University of Memphis the last four years, will be a roving infield coordinator, former pitcher Rick Honeycutt returns as roving pitching coordinator and George Hendrick will be the roving hitting coordinator.

Jerry Royster will be manager and Mariano Duncan will be a coach at triple-A Las Vegas. John Shoemaker, a member of the Dodger minor league system since 1977, will be manager at Jacksonville, and Ken Howell will be the pitching coach.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Head to Head

Comparing the seven-year careers of J.D. Drew and Adrian Beltre:

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*--* J.D. DREW (AGE 29)

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*--* Season TM G H HR RBI SO AVG OBP SLG OPS 1998 StL 14 15 5 13 10 417 463 972 1.435 1999 StL 104 89 13 39 77 242 340 424 764 2000 StL 135 120 18 57 99 295 401 479 880 2001 StL 109 121 27 73 75 323 414 613 1.027 2002 StL 135 107 18 56 104 252 349 429 778 2003 StL 100 83 15 42 48 289 374 512 886 2004 Atl 145 158 31 93 116 305 436 569 1.005

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*--* ADRIAN BELTRE (AGE 25)

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*--* Season TM G H HR RBI SO AVG OBP SLG OPS 1998 LA 77 42 7 22 37 215 278 369 647 1999 LA 152 148 15 67 105 275 352 428 780 2000 LA 138 148 20 85 80 290 360 475 835 2001 LA 126 126 13 60 82 265 310 411 721 2002 LA 159 151 21 75 96 257 303 426 729 2003 LA 158 134 23 80 103 240 290 424 714 2004 LA 156 200 48 121 87 334 388 629 1.017

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