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Saito is free to go elsewhere

Staff and Wire Reports

Takashi Saito became a free agent Friday night when the Dodgers opted not to tender the former All-Star closer a contract because of concerns about his elbow.

The Dodgers also non-tendered shortstop Angel Berroa, relievers Scott Proctor and Yhency Brazoban, and minor league pitcher Mario Alvarez.

Saito, 38, saved 81 games in his three seasons with the Dodgers and figured to get a significant raise from his 2008 salary of $2 million in arbitration, for which he was eligible for the first time. That was a risk the Dodgers didn’t want to take, not with Saito having missed two months last season because of a partially torn ligament in his elbow. The club offered an incentive-laden one-year deal that was declined.

The Dodgers can still re-sign Saito, whom they signed to a minor league contract before the 2006 season.

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“The door’s still open,” Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti said.

Saito’s agent, Nez Balelo, said Saito is also open to continuing talks with the Dodgers.

“We’re definitely going to keep the Dodgers in mind,” Balelo said. “But we are also looking forward to the opportunity Takashi has to enter the free-agent market.”

Saito’s potential departure leaves 24-year-old Jonathan Broxton as the top candidate to be the Dodgers’ closer.

But the Dodgers aren’t entirely convinced Broxton can handle the role -- “He’s shown signs he can do it and he’s shown signs he’s not ready to do it yet,” Colletti said -- and have expressed an interest in signing Trevor Hoffman. Colletti also named left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo as an internal candidate to replace Saito if he signs elsewhere.

Colletti said the Dodgers are interested in re-signing Berroa, who started at shortstop when Rafael Furcal was hurt. Brazoban and Alvarez could be re-signed to minor league deals.

-- Dylan Hernandez

Angels bring back five

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All five of the Angels’ arbitration-eligible players -- third baseman Chone Figgins, pitcher Ervin Santana, catcher Mike Napoli, infielder Maicer Izturis and utility player Robb Quinlan -- were tendered 2009 contracts, assuring that all will receive guaranteed major league contracts.

-- Mike DiGiovanna

Ibanez headed to Phillies

The Philadelphia Phillies reached a preliminary agreement with outfielder Raul Ibanez on a three-year contract worth $31.5 million.

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The agreement is subject to Ibanez’s passing a physical, a baseball official said, speaking to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the contract was not yet finalized.

The Angels were thought to be interested in Ibanez.

Yankees add Burnett

The New York Yankees reeled in another pitcher with a rich offer, reaching agreement with free agent A.J. Burnett on a five-year, $82.5-million contract.

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CC Sabathia and the Yankees made a deal for $161 million over seven years during the winter meetings.

Signings, trades, etc.

Free-agent infielder Felipe Lopez has signed a one-year contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks for a reported $3.5 million. Arizona also acquired left-handed reliever Scott Schoeneweis from the New York Mets in a trade for right-hander Connor Robertson. The Mets will pay $1.6 million of Schoeneweis’ $3.6-million salary in 2009. . . . The Cincinnati Reds strengthened their bullpen by agreeing to a $4-million, two-year contract with left-hander Arthur Rhodes, 39.

Outfielder Willie Harris agreed to a two-year, $3-million contract with the Washington Nationals. The Nationals also announced they did not tender a 2009 contract to right-hander Tim Redding, the only pitcher to win 10 games for the team last season. . . . The Chicago White Sox agreed to a $10-million, four-year contract with Cuban infielder Dayan Viciedo, 19. . . . The Toronto Blue Jays signed former All-Star right-hander Matt Clement to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

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Other notable players who were not tendered contracts by their teams, and thus became free agents, included: third baseman Ty Wiggington of the Houston Astros, left-handed pitcher Chris Capuano of the Milwaukee Brewers, outfielder Willy Tavares of the Colorado Rockies and right-handed pitcher Clay Hensley of the San Diego Padres.


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