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Dodgers and Saito agree to deal

Times Staff Writer

The mass of microphones and throng of reporters pressing into Scott Boras in the hotel lobby at the winter meetings on Tuesday night told the tale.

It was a great day for three former Dodgers, all represented by the hardball agent who is barely on speaking terms with General Manager Ned Colletti.

Starting pitcher Greg Maddux will join the San Diego Padres. Right fielder J.D. Drew will become a Boston Red Sox. Closer Eric Gagne’s destination is unclear, but Boras said he expects the former Cy Young Award winner to sign before the end of the week for a one-year, $5-million deal.

Meanwhile, all the Dodgers had to show for the second day of wheeling and dealing was finishing up contracts with closer Takashi Saito and backup catcher Mike Lieberthal.

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“Nothing is imminent, nothing is, ‘On the verge of,’ ” Colletti said. “I’ve got offers out to three to five players, but nothing is close.”

He emphasized that outfielder Luis Gonzalez isn’t one of them, despite an assertion by the outfielder’s agent, Gregg Clifton, that the Dodgers are actively pursuing the longtime former Arizona Diamondback along with the Baltimore Orioles and St. Louis Cardinals.

It’s a better bet that an offer has been made to pitcher Jason Schmidt, and that the interest is reciprocated. That would explain the Dodgers letting Maddux slip away to a division rival with barely a shrug.

Maddux completed a two-year contract with the Padres that guarantees him $16 million and provides incentives that could increase the deal to $20 million. Boras said the right-hander will get $10 million in 2007 and a guaranteed $6 million in 2008. The incentives kick in when he reaches 160 innings and top out at $3.5 million after 200 innings.

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Contrary to published reports, the Dodgers were willing to give Maddux a two-year deal, and for close to what the Padres paid. But Colletti and Boras barely talked, and tepid 11th-hour negotiations were conducted by Kim Ng, Dodgers assistant general manager, and special advisor Bill Lajoie.

The Padres are excited about the addition of Maddux, whose leadership and expertise rubbed off on other Dodgers pitchers the second half of the 2006 season.

“Our manager [Bud Black] will be new to the National League, so Greg in the dugout will almost be like having an advance scout in uniform,” General Manager Kevin Towers said.

The Dodgers did not offer Maddux arbitration because they feared he would accept and be awarded as much as $14 million for 2007. As a result, the Padres don’t have to give the Dodgers a first-round draft choice.

Boras also announced that Drew agreed to terms with the Red Sox for five years and $70 million. Drew signed a five-year, $55-million deal with the Dodgers before the 2005 season but elected to use an opt-out clause Boras had negotiated into the deal when Paul DePodesta was general manager.

As slogans go, “Games Finished” doesn’t have quite the pizazz of Gagne’s “Game Over,” but it will be meaningful to Saito. The Japanese right-hander signed a one-year contract that could be worth $1.3 million if he reaches incentives based on the number of games he finishes.

Saito, 36, is guaranteed $1 million and will get $25,000 when he finishes 30, 35, 40 and 45 games. He will get $50,000 when he reaches 50 and 55, and $100,000 by finishing 60 games. Saito finished 48 games last season, when he held opponents to a .177 batting average.

Lieberthal, who passed a physical Tuesday, will be paid $1.15 million in 2007 with a team option for 2008 and a $100,000 buyout. The option could trigger if the 13-year veteran reaches an unspecified number of plate appearances.

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Manager Grady Little said he is considering batting shortstop Rafael Furcal third in a lineup that would have new addition Juan Pierre batting leadoff, followed by catcher Russell Martin. Furcal had 15 home runs among his 56 extra-base hits and batted .346 with runners in scoring position.

steve.henson@latimes.com


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