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Garciaparra deal isn’t settled yet

Times Staff Writer

Bill Mueller could serve as a cautionary tale to the Dodgers about the perils of signing a player with a history of injuries. The former batting champion with the balky knee retired Friday with one year and $4.5 million left on his contract and took a position as special assistant to General Manager Ned Colletti.

Yet the Dodgers are plunging ahead, giving oft-injured Nomar Garciaparra a two-year deal.

“We are close to a deal with Nomar, not there yet, but close,” Colletti said.

Garciaparra might be brittle -- he missed 221 games the last three seasons -- but he is productive, batting .318 in 11 seasons.

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He also told the Dodgers he is willing to move from first to third base if the need arises.

So to Colletti, the potential reward is worth the risk.

“You rarely have the perfect scenario with a player,” he said. “I know how hard Nomar works, I know how much he cares. If he gets hurt, it will be because he is doing everything he can to win a game.”

Mueller, 35, also earned a reputation as a tough player while helping the Boston Red Sox to the 2004 World Series championship and hitting .291 in 11 seasons. But he was forced to retire because of ongoing problems with his right knee, playing in only 32 games for the Dodgers after signing a two-year, $9.5-million contract. He will draw his playing salary next year, but he will spend his time scouting and offering Colletti advice.

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“I’m very interested in learning under Ned,” Mueller said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to listen and really get tutored about the front office.”

Mueller will accompany Colletti to the Dominican Republic before the winter meetings begin Dec. 3.

The Dodgers also informed outfielder Alfonso Soriano’s representatives that they are interested in signing him -- even though he reportedly is seeking a seven-year, $120 million deal. Colletti was taken aback by the demands of many free agents.

“I think the players are expecting big raises, long-term, big-dollar contracts, whether they’ve had a mediocre or a stellar career, or in some cases, hardly any career,” he said.

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steve.henson@latimes.com


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