One of the most intriguing contract negotiations this winter will occur in Los Angeles between Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti and super agent Scott Boras.
At stake is the future of 2003 National League Cy Young Award winner Eric Gagne.
From 2002 to 2004, Gagne was one of the most feared closers in baseball. In January 2005, he signed a two-year, $19 million deal that included a $12 million option for 2007. Because of various injuries, he has made just 16 appearances since signing the deal.
The Dodgers obviously will exercise their $1 million buyout, partially because they should be in fine bullpen shape with the emergence of Takashi Saito and Jonathan Broxton and the conversion of former starter Brett Tomko.
But Gagne, signed by the Dodgers in 1995, said he wants to remain with the only organization he has known. He has said he would "definitely" offer a hometown discount.
"I'm a Dodger," said Gagne, who expects to be fully rehabilitated from back surgery by December. "I want to be here. I think we have a really good relationship. But that's out of my control. I have to get healthy, and then I will go wherever someone wants me. But I think they want me here."
The rub is that, under league rules, the club will have only until Dec. 7 to reach an agreement with Gagne. It can extend that period to Jan. 8 by offering him arbitration, but he would get at least $8 million there. (He made $10 million in 2006, and his salary couldn't be cut in arbitration by more than 20 percent.) And that would be too much for a guy who hasn't pitched regularly since 2004.
The sides could agree to a handshake deal that arbitration would be offered and not accepted as a way to extend the negotiations. But Boras is known for getting his clients out on the open market. And given the state of relief pitching and Gagne's ability when healthy, he likely would have suitors.
Colletti said he is "open-minded" about bringing back Gagne. And Gagne said he would be making the decisions, not Boras.
Big Apple, here we come
Outfielder Shawn Green, who was traded Tuesday from low-pressure Arizona to the high-octane world of the New York Mets, said he's ready for the switch to the National League's best team. He also said it in a plural voice.
"We feel we are up for an adventure, and at this stage of my career, I think New York is the perfect fit," Green said.
Shocked son, brother
San Diego Padres second baseman Josh Barfield said he was stunned last week when he learned that his father, former big leaguer Jesse, was pushed down a flight of stairs by his brother, Jeremy, a New York Mets 2006 draft pick. Jesse Barfield, 45, suffered a head injury but was released from the hospital.
"It was a family matter that's being handled in-house," Josh Barfield said. "I've talked to my parents, and they've been overwhelmed."
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