Navarro officially joins Dodgers
Catcher returns to LA to compete for backup role
The Dodgers officially reacquired free-agent catcher Dioner Navarro when he passed his physical exam on Monday.The former All-Star and former Dodger will compete with A.J. Ellis as backup to starting catcher Rod Barajas, the position rebuilt since Russell Martin rejected the Dodgers' $4.2 million offer. As the Dodgers did with Martin, Navarro was non-tendered by Tampa Bay. The 26-year-old switch-hitter came to the Dodgers from the Yankees in the 2005 three-team trade that sent Shawn Green to Arizona and Randy Johnson to New York. He opened his rookie season as the Dodgers' starting catcher, but he injured his wrist and quickly lost his job to Martin. Halfway through that season, Navarro was traded with Jae Seo to Tampa Bay for Toby Hall and Mark Hendrickson. Navarro became the starting catcher in Tampa Bay and was an All-Star in 2008 with a career-high .295 average and 54 RBIs, but he sagged to .218 in 2009 and fell completely out of favor in 2010, losing playing time to John Jaso and Kelly Shoppach. After playing in 119, 120 and 115 games from 2007-09, Navarro played in only 48 games in '10, batting .194 with seven RBIs. Told he would not be on Tampa Bay's postseason roster for the first round of the playoffs, he left the club and went home, assuring his non-tender. He was in the second year of a two-year, $4.2 million contract. Now Navarro becomes a low-risk potential long-term replacement to Martin. The short-term replacement is Barajas, signed to a $3.25 million deal as the starting catcher, presumably to team with Ellis, who now must compete with Navarro to stay in the Major Leagues. Navarro is the Dodgers' ninth free-agent signing this offseason, joining Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda, Jon Garland, Juan Uribe, Vicente Padilla, Tony Gwynn and Jay Gibbons. General manager Ned Colletti is still looking for a left fielder (the candidates are Bill Hall, Marcus Thames and Jerry and Scott Hairston). If he doesn't land one of them, a relief pitcher is a possibility.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.