As Mota arrives, Jones on the way out
Dodgers finalize deal with reliever, will set outfielder free Thursday
LOS ANGELES -- After officially adding reliever Guillermo Mota to the roster on Wednesday, the Dodgers will officially subtract Andruw Jones from the roster on Thursday.It's time for the Dodgers to trade or cut bait with Jones. Surprisingly, the Dodgers this week actually discussed a trade with two clubs interested enough in Jones to consider giving up something rather than compete with another club to get him as a free agent. Dodgers management, however, isn't counting on any miracles. It still expects to be forced to release the 31-year-old outfielder as part of a recent contract renegotiation that assures Jones he'll play elsewhere in 2009 while providing the Dodgers payroll flexibility by deferring the remaining $21.1 million of his salary over the next six years. For what it's worth, Jones attended the Duke-Georgia Tech basketball game Wednesday night wearing an Atlanta Braves cap.
The Dodgers' payroll flexibility will help make it palatable for the club to set aside significant salary when Manny Ramirez is ready to accept it, while allowing for the acquisition of a veteran starting pitcher to join an otherwise young rotation.In a radio interview Wednesday, general manager Ned Colletti reiterated the interest that the Dodgers have had in Ramirez since extending and withdrawing the only publicly acknowledged offer the outfielder has received this winter -- two years for $45 million with a third-year option of $15 million.
Unlike the first two months of the offseason, Colletti now has an ongoing dialogue with agent Scott Boras on Ramirez. The only other club with confirmed interest in the 36-year-old Ramirez is the San Francisco Giants. But they have made it clear their interest, like the Dodgers', is limited to short term -- meaning, two years.Based on Ramirez's euphoric stint in Los Angeles, the Dodgers are optimistic that he would choose to return if faced with similar offers. But the Dodgers have shown no interest in satisfying Ramirez's demand for a long-term contract, no matter which other club is involved. As for starting pitching, the Dodgers remain focused on landing one of three targeted free agents -- Jon Garland, Randy Wolf or Braden Looper. Derek Lowe's signing with Atlanta hasn't accelerated the process. The Dodgers probably prefer Wolf from the three, but he's in the mix for the Mets and the Dodgers won't try to outbid them. If the Mets sign fellow left-hander Oliver Perez, it likely increases the chances of Wolf returning to the Dodgers. The Dodgers also have mild interest in Kris Benson, trying to come back from shoulder surgery. Meanwhile, the 35-year-old Mota passed his physical exam to complete a one-year contract agreement for $2.35 million plus another $300,000 in incentives. He earned $3.2 million last year. Mota rejoins the club in a setup role, which he filled with distinction during his previous Dodgers stint as the eighth-inning preliminary to phenom closer Eric Gagne. "Guillermo is a power arm that can stabilize the back of our bullpen," Colletti said. "He's had plenty of success in L.A. before and we look forward to seeing that again." Mota was inexperienced in his 2002-04 tour of duty in Los Angeles, but now he will be counted on as a veteran in an otherwise youthful bullpen after the losses of veterans Takashi Saito, Joe Beimel, Chan Ho Park and Scott Proctor. The current bullpen consists of closer Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, Cory Wade, James McDonald, Ramon Troncoso, Eric Stults and possibly Claudio Vargas. Mota was acquired by the Dodgers from Montreal during Spring Training of 2002 and traded away with Paul Lo Duca and Juan Encarnacion to Florida for Brad Penny and Hee-Seop Choi on July 30, 2004. The right-hander hasn't been the same pitcher since being traded away. He had a 2.60 ERA while with the Dodgers, a 4.79 ERA since. He's also served a 50-day suspension for violating MLB's drug policy and bounced from the Marlins to the Indians to the Mets and spent 2008 pitching for Milwaukee. He was 5-6 for the Brewers, pitching in 58 games with a 4.11 ERA, his lowest ERA since he left the Dodgers.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.