Dodgers Swing for Big Triple

Times Staff Writer

The Dodgers tried to lock up three of their most precious jewels Monday, negotiating into the night with representatives of pitchers Eric Gagne and Brad Penny after signing shortstop Cesar Izturis to a long-term contract.

In an effort to avoid what can become a contentious process -- Exhibit A is Gagne’s arbitration hearing a year ago -- the Dodgers hope to reach contract agreements.

The deadline for each side to submit a 2005 salary figure to the commissioner’s office is 9 a.m. today. However, negotiations may continue until arbitration takes place in mid-February.


“We continue to talk and make progress with both Gagne and Penny,” said Paul DePodesta, the Dodger general manager. “We hope to avoid the hearing room with both of them.”

Penny is in his third and final year of arbitration, Gagne is in his second year and Izturis faced his first, although it turned out the Gold Glove winner will never go through an experience that temporarily alienated Gagne last year.

Izturis, 24, is guaranteed $9.9 million over three years, and the Dodgers hold an option for a fourth year. He gets a $300,000 signing bonus and $2.05-million salary this season, $3.1 million in 2006, $4.15 million in 2007 and a $150,000 bonus any time he wins a Gold Glove.

The team option for 2008 is $5.85 million, with a $300,000 buyout.

Izturis had a breakout season in 2004 and was projected to get about $1.3 million at arbitration. By agreeing to a multiyear deal, he will make more in the short term and the Dodgers are assured he will be part of their long-range plans.

The switch-hitting leadoff man batted .288 last season, collecting 193 hits, 90 runs and 25 stolen bases. He hit four home runs and drove in 62 runs.

His greatest value is on defense, where he made only 10 errors and exhibited great range. The Dodgers have several starting pitchers who induce groundballs, including Jeff Weaver and the recently signed Derek Lowe and Odalis Perez.


“We’re thrilled that Cesar will continue to anchor our infield,” DePodesta said. “He already has one Gold Glove, and his offense continues to improve. This is another positive step in creating stability on our club.”

Avoiding arbitration with Gagne, considered baseball’s best closer, would be another.

After winning the 2003 Cy Young Award, he was awarded $5 million by a three-person panel -- that’s $3 million less than he had sought but an enormous raise from the $550,000 he made in 2002.

The Dodgers did not offer to settle beforehand. DePodesta had just come onboard and was not involved in the arbitration. Frank McCourt was in the first weeks of his ownership.

“They never offered the midpoint, and that’s the most disappointing thing to me about this,” Gagne said at the time. “No offers at all, and I would have considered it.”

Gagne, 29, had another stellar season, posting 45 saves to give him a three-year total of 152. DePodesta and Scott Boras, Gagne’s agent, have expressed a desire to reach agreement on a two-year deal sources say would be in the range of $19 million to $22 million.

Penny, 26, is less of a certainty. He was obtained at the trading deadline from the Florida Marlins to be the No. 1 starter, but suffered a nerve injury in his right biceps during his second start. The Dodgers prefer to avoid arbitration with him as well, although they might be willing to offer only a one-year deal.


DePodesta appears to shun arbitration whenever possible. Earlier in the off-season, he reached a one-year, $2.5-million agreement with outfielder Milton Bradley rather than go through arbitration with a player whose off-field problems could have hurt his value.

Kim Ng, assistant general manager, and attorney Mark Rosenthal represented the Dodgers in the Gagne arbitration last year. Ng didn’t enjoy the process.

“This is not fun,” Ng said after the three-person panel ruled in favor of the Dodgers. “It’s a very tough process that these guys and the clubs have to go through.”



Key Catch

Dodger shortstop Cesar Izturis avoided arbitration by agreeing Monday to a $9.9-million, three-year contract:


* Last season: Made $358,500.

* Signing bonus: $300,000.

* 2005 salary: $2.05 million.

* 2006: $3.1 million.

* 2007: $4.15 million.

* 2008: The Dodgers have a $5.85-million option with a $300,000 buyout.


* Games...159

* At-bats...670

* Runs...90

* Hits...193

* Doubles...32

* Triples...9

* Home runs...4

* Total bases...255

* RBIs...62

* Walks...43

* Strikeouts...70

* Stolen bases...25

* Batting avg.....288

* On-base %....330