New-look Dodgers add Lofton
Veteran signs one-year deal, will bat second, play center
LOS ANGELES -- Adding what appears to be the final piece to the batting order's extreme makeover, the Dodgers on Tuesday signed free agent Kenny Lofton to a one-year contract to bat second behind new leadoff hitter Rafael Furcal and play center field.
With Lofton -- a four-time Gold Glove winner -- in center, J.D. Drew and his healing shoulder and wrist will remain in right field. As the roster currently stands, with Jayson Werth recovering from wrist surgery, Jose Cruz Jr. figures to start the season in left field.
Because at 38 years old Lofton isn't expected to appear in more than the 110 games he played in 2005, and because Drew has played more than 140 games only once in eight seasons (only 72 in 2005), there will be significant playing time for Ricky Ledee, Jason Repko and Werth when he heals.
Other outfielders on the roster are Cody Ross, Mike Edwards and newcomer Andre Ethier, acquired last week in the Milton Bradley trade and expected to start the 2006 season at Triple-A.
Long a leadoff hitter, Lofton said he has made an easy transition to batting second.
"I can still have an impact on the first inning, like I did last year," said Lofton, who hit .335 in Philadelphia in 2005. "I just want to play and be on the field."
Now that general manager Ned Colletti has reshaped the batting order, he can address the starting pitching. Free agent Jeff Weaver rejected salary arbitration Monday, but even with $81 million committed to 14 players, Colletti said he has enough payroll remaining to do "for the right pitcher, what I need to do."
He would not, however, say whether he was optimistic or pessimistic that it would be Weaver, who is seeking a multi-year deal at a raise from the $9.35 million he earned in 2005.
"It depends if he wants to pitch here and what [agent Scott Boras] wants him to be paid," said Colletti. "It's a typical formula. I know that the days are shorter to do it."
The Dodgers already have $24.25 million committed to starting pitchers Derek Lowe, Odalis Perez and Brad Penny in the 2006 payroll.
Lofton, who earned $3.1 million in 2005, the last year of a two-year deal, will receive a $3.5 million base, $350,000 signing bonus with $50,000 incentives for 350, 400 and 450 plate appearances. He had 401 plate appearances in 2005.
He said he chose the Dodgers, his 10th team, over Baltimore and Arizona to be reunited with Colletti, having played briefly in 2002 for the San Francisco Giants when Colletti was assistant GM there.
"He understands the person I am, and that's why I want to be here," said Lofton. "He's a guy I respect as a person. The Dodgers are looking to win, and that's what I'm all about. I don't like to lose. I accept it, but I don't like it. They've added quality guys who have been there, done that. They know how to win."
Each veteran that Colletti has added -- Rafael Furcal, Bill Mueller, Sandy Alomar Jr., Nomar Garciaparra and Lofton -- have postseason experience; in Lofton's case, it's nine October appearances.
"Without Kenny Lofton, the Giants do not end up in the World Series [in 2002]," said Colletti. "He brings a lot of character to us, and his skills are still similar to early in his career."
Lofton is a 14-year veteran with a .299 career batting average. He played in 110 games and stole 22 bases for the Phillies in 2005. A six-time All-Star, Lofton has four Gold Gloves and five stolen base titles. His 567 steals make him the active career leader and 23rd overall in baseball history.
The Dodgers also signed 32-year-old journeyman third baseman Chris Truby to a Minor League contract on Tuesday. Truby last appeared in the Major Leagues in 2003 and spent 2005 with Kansas City's Triple-A affiliate at Omaha, where he hit 20 home runs with 66 RBIs and a .242 average. He was given an invitation to Major League training camp.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.