With third baseman Casey Blake re-signed and negotiations with Manny Ramirez at an impasse, the Dodgers have shifted their focus on retaining Rafael Furcal.
But major obstacles have to be cleared if the Dodgers are to re-sign Furcal, who played in only 36 regular-season games this year because of back problems that required surgery.
The Dodgers have offered the 31-year-old shortstop an incentive-laden contract that is guaranteed for two years and includes a vesting option for a third, according to sources familiar with the negotiations who were granted anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the matter. Furcal is asking for a four-year deal.
Furcal’s agent, Paul Kinzer, said Wednesday that the Dodgers are one of four finalists to sign his client. Kinzer said the other three -- Oakland, Toronto and Kansas City -- also have offers on the table and that Oakland’s is for four years.
Kinzer says he expects Furcal to be signed by Christmas.
Furcal can guarantee the third year of the contract with the Dodgers by accumulating a certain number of at-bats in the first two years, sources said.
“We would like to share some risk with the player and if he’s willing to do that, we can figure something out,” Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti said. “If he doesn’t want to and doesn’t have to, he probably won’t be here.”
Hitting incentive benchmarks that he would “blow past” in what is considered a typical season for Furcal would let him collect the kind of annual salary he is seeking, Colletti said.
“It still falls short,” he said.
Furcal completed a three-year, $39-million contract this year.
Colletti said he was also exploring other options, including re-signing Angel Berroa.
The Dodgers are in “a staredown” with closer Takashi Saito, according to Colletti.
Saito, who couldn’t pitch in the National League Championship Series because of elbow trouble, is balking at a one-year, incentive-laden deal offered to him by the Dodgers.
The Dodgers could part ways with the former All-Star if they can’t agree with him on the terms of a new contract by Friday, which is the deadline to tender contracts to players. By tendering Saito a contract, the Dodgers would risk facing him in arbitration, which would probably result in Saito receiving a sizable raise from the $2 million he earned this year.
The Dodgers could pursue Trevor Hoffman if they lose Saito, thinking he could mentor Jonathan Broxton.
Utility infielder Mark Loretta officially became a Dodger on Wednesday, when the club announced that they signed him to a one-year, $1.25-million deal. . . . The New York Mets obtained J.J. Putz from Seattle as part of a three-team, 12-player trade that gives them a setup man for new closer Francisco Rodriguez. New York dealt seven players -- six to the Mariners and one to Cleveland. Promising outfielder Franklin Gutierrez was sent from the Indians to Seattle. . . . The Detroit Tigers acquired right-hander Edwin Jackson from the Tampa Bay Rays for outfielder Matt Joyce.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.