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Dodgers add two big names

Times Staff Writer

In the most impressive recovery of the winter meetings, the Dodgers bounced back one day after essentially cutting ties with four free agents by agreeing to terms with starting pitcher Jason Schmidt and veteran outfielder Luis Gonzalez on Wednesday.

Schmidt, the ace of the San Francisco Giants staff the last five seasons, will sign a three-year deal for $47 million, getting $12.5 million in 2007, $15 million in 2008 and $16 million in 2009. In addition, $2.5 million is deferred to 2010 and $1 million will be paid in 2011.

Gonzalez, who didn’t come to an agreement until 1 a.m. EST, has a one-year, $7.35-million deal and assurances from Manager Grady Little that he will be the starting left fielder. The left-handed hitting Gonzalez, 39, batted .271 with 15 homers and 52 doubles last season and will replace J.D. Drew in the Dodgers lineup, probably batting between right-handers Nomar Garciaparra and Jeff Kent.

A day earlier, the Dodgers learned that Drew and shortstop Julio Lugo signed with the Boston Red Sox, pitcher Greg Maddux went to the San Diego Padres, and closer Eric Gagne spurned an offer to stay in L.A. and will shop around for a better deal.

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Schmidt also was pursued by the St. Louis Cardinals and Seattle Mariners, but his strong relationship with Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti and head athletic trainer Stan Conte cemented the deal. Colletti and Conte both were employed by the Giants when Schmidt went 73-44 from 2001 to 2005.

“Jason brings a lot to the team,” said Dodgers pitcher Brett Tomko, who was Schmidt’s teammate with the Giants. “He gives you seven to eight innings consistently. He wants the ball.”

Schmidt, who will turn 34 in January, joins a rotation that also includes veterans Derek Lowe and Brad Penny, newly signed left-hander Randy Wolf and second-year right-hander Chad Billingsley.

The Dodgers also have young left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo, who made several quality starts in September, and veteran left-hander Mark Hendrickson. Tomko also had extensive experience as a starter before becoming a reliever at mid-season.

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Accumulating surplus starters gives Colletti ammunition to trade for an outfielder who could bat in the middle of the lineup. Penny, the National League starter in the All-Star game, is the most likely trade bait because his temper problems became tiresome to the Dodgers and he had a poor second half.

However, executives from other teams said Penny’s stock has dropped to the point that it could be difficult for the Dodgers to deal him for a proven hitter unless they also include at least one top prospect. A possible trade partner could be the Toronto Blue Jays, whose general manager, J.P. Ricciardi, likes Penny. Blue Jays center fielder Vernon Wells has one year left on his contract and isn’t likely to re-sign with Toronto, so Ricciardi could be open to trading him.

Landing Schmidt also explains why the Dodgers made only a tepid attempt to re-sign Maddux. Schmidt held the Dodgers to a .187 batting average in 14 starts against them the last three years.

“It seemed like every time we picked up the paper and saw that he was going to be pitching in our series, it wasn’t really a pitcher we were looking forward to facing,” Little said. “You know that when you took the field against a guy like that, he’s going to be out there for a long time.”

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Schmidt has lost several miles an hour off his fastball and strikes out fewer batters than in previous years. But scouts say his off-speed pitches are effective and he has excellent command. He has a history of injuries but underwent a rigorous conditioning program a year ago and pitched 213 1/3 innings last season, going 11-9 with a 3.59 earned-run average.

Adding Gonzalez also could increase the Dodgers options in a trade. They could feel more comfortable trading a prospect such as Matt Kemp, Andy LaRoche, James Loney or Andre Ethier.

The Dodgers made a two-year offer to Gonzalez earlier Wednesday, but the 17-year veteran opted to take a higher salary for one year.

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Gagne said during the season he would give the Dodgers a hometown discount to re-sign, but like Drew’s assertion that he wouldn’t opt out of his contract, those words ring somewhat hollow. Gagne’s agent, Scott Boras, turned down a guaranteed one-year, $4-million Dodgers offer with incentives that could have increased the value to $10 million, a source close to the negotiations said.

Although the Dodgers don’t appear willing to increase the offer, Boras plans to speak to Colletti again before Gagne signs with another team. The market for Gagne has increased to more than $5 million guaranteed, with the same kind of incentives the Dodgers are offering.

“Obviously we are meeting and talking to a lot of teams,” Boras said. “But Ned and I are communicating and we will continue to talk about Eric Gagne.”

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Mike Lieberthal, catcher Russell Martin’s new backup, wants to continue playing long after his $1.15-million contract for 2007 expires.

“Hopefully I can extend my career another three to five years,” he said. “I keep my body in great shape. I’ll take it as long as I can.”

Lieberthal’s contract includes a club option for $1.4 million for 2008 and a $100,000 buyout. The 13-year veteran said he has recovered from October abdominal surgery and will begin taking batting practice soon.

“I respect Russell Martin and look forward to helping him,” he said. “He’s going to catch 130 games a year, pretty much what I was used to doing. I’ll catch once a week, and I’m fine with that.”

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Terry Collins, who resigned as director of player development to become manager of the Orix Buffaloes in the Japanese League, was miffed at not being invited to the Baseball America gala where the Dodgers were honored as organization of the year.

“Maybe the invitation got lost in the mail,” he said.

Collins said he expects Dodgers Class-A shortstop Preston Mattingly to make it to the big leagues. Mattingly, the son of former New York Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly, was the 31st player drafted in June and batted .290 in rookie league.

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“He has a sense about him, this confidence you don’t often see,” Collins said. “And he’s got great bat speed, and he can run.”

Former Dodgers reliever Lance Carter signed to play with the Buffaloes.

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Ralph Avila, Dodgers senior advisor of player development, was the first recipient of major league baseball’s International Scout of the Year award. Avila has been a Dodgers scout since 1967 and signed Pedro Martinez, Rick Rhoden, Alejandro Pena and Mariano Duncan, among others.

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steve.henson@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

A lot on the ball

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Jason Schmidt, below, bolsters an already strong Dodgers pitching staff. The projected starting rotation and other candidates, with last season’s statistics:

*--* Pitcher W-L ERA Derek Lowe 16-8 3.63 Jason Schmidt 11-9 3.59 Randy Wolf* 4-0 5.56 Brad Penny 16-9 4.33 Chad Billingsley 7-4 3.80 Other candidates Hong-Chih Kuo* 1-5 4.22 Mark Hendrickson* 2-7 4.68 Brett Tomko 8-7 4.73

*--*

*-left-hander

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Los Angeles Times

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By the numbers

Career statistics for pitcher Jason Schmidt and outfielder Luis Gonzalez:

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JASON SCHMIDT

*--* YEAR TEAM W L ERA IP 1995 Atlanta 2 2 5.76 25.0 1996 Atlanta 3 4 6.75 58.2 1996 Pittsburgh 2 2 4.06 37.2 1997 Pittsburgh 10 9 4.60 187.2 1998 Pittsburgh 11 14 4.07 214.1 1999 Pittsburgh 13 11 4.19 212.2 2000 Pittsburgh 2 5 5.40 63.1 2001 Pittsburgh 6 6 4.61 84.0 2001 San Francisco 7 1 3.39 66.1 2002 San Francisco 13 8 3.45 185.1 2003 San Francisco 17 5 2.34 207.2 2004 San Francisco 18 7 3.20 225.0 2005 San Francisco 12 7 4.40 172.0 2006 San Francisco 11 9 3.59 213.1 Total 127 90 3.91 1,953.0

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LUIS GONZALEZ

*--* YEAR TEAM HR RBI OBP AVG 1990 Houston 0 0 261 190 1991 Houston 13 69 320 254 1992 Houston 10 55 289 243 1993 Houston 15 72 361 300 1994 Houston 8 67 353 273 1995 Chicago (NL) 7 34 384 290 1995 Houston 6 35 322 258 1996 Chicago (NL) 15 79 354 271 1997 Houston 10 68 345 258 1998 Detroit 23 71 340 267 1999 Arizona 26 111 403 336 2000 Arizona 31 114 392 311 2001 Arizona 57 142 429 325 2002 Arizona 28 103 400 288 2003 Arizona 26 104 402 304 2004 Arizona 17 48 373 259 2005 Arizona 24 79 366 271 2006 Arizona 15 73 352 271 Total 331 1,324 368 284

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Source: MLB.com

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