Free-agent outfielder Brian Giles re-signed with the San Diego Padres on Wednesday, spurning a more lucrative offer from the Dodgers and setting back their rebuilding efforts.
Giles, a San Diego native, accepted a three-year, $30-million contract from the Padres, who two weeks ago said their best offer was $4.5 million less than that. The Dodgers offered $34.5 million over three years, with a $2.5-million buyout and a club option for a fourth year at an additional $11 million.
The Padre offer includes $9 million each of the next three seasons, a club option for $9 million in 2009 and a $3-million buyout. The Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees were among other teams to make offers to Giles, who will turn 35 in January.
Acquiring Giles to play right field and bat behind cleanup hitter Jeff Kent has been a key element in Dodger off-season plans since before Paul DePodesta was fired as general manager. DePodesta and his replacement, Ned Colletti, have different philosophies, but both wanted Giles.
Colletti said Wednesday the team’s most pressing need was a productive outfielder. Now he must scramble to find a productive one in a thin market.
The only other free-agent outfielder with the credentials of Giles, who has a stellar .413 career on-base percentage, is Johnny Damon. However, Damon is seeking a seven-year deal and the Dodgers don’t believe he merits a contract that long.
Among others available are Reggie Sanders, Preston Wilson, Jeromy Burnitz and Jacque Jones.
The Dodgers re-signed outfielder Jose Cruz Jr., but are looking for another big bat in the middle of the order. Giles, who batted .301 with 15 home runs and 83 runs batted in last season, was one of the few free agents who could have filled the role.
Losing out on Giles could prompt the Dodgers to retain troubled center fielder Milton Bradley, who made $2.5 million last year and is eligible for arbitration. The Oakland Athletics and Chicago Cubs are among teams that have shown interest in trading for him.
“At this point in time, I’m open-minded,” Colletti said of keeping Bradley. “We’ll see how it goes. He’s a very good player.”
The Dodgers also need a leadoff batter. Colletti’s meeting with free agent Rafael Furcal’s representative Tuesday night did not include an offer and the shortstop is thought to be leaning toward signing with the Cubs.
Colletti said the chance of re-signing pitcher Jeff Weaver “is more of a longshot than a chip shot” because Weaver and his agent, Scott Boras, “are in one place and the Dodgers are in another.”
Colletti said he probably won’t add managerial candidates to the pool of Jim Fregosi, Grady Little, John McLaren, Manny Acta and Joel Skinner. Colletti will interview Acta today at Dodger Stadium and travel to Ohio to interview Skinner on Friday.
The absence of a manager has not impeded the pursuit of free agents by the Dodgers, Colletti said.
“I haven’t heard it from one player or one agent,” he said. “They are more interested in the composition of the club and who else we are interested in signing.”
In a sign of an impending youth movement, Colletti said the next manager must be willing to go with inexperienced players.