Dodgers sign Gwynn to two-year contract
Los Angeles still interested in signing non-tendered Kuo
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers re-signed outfielder Tony Gwynn to a two-year, $2 million contract Monday and tendered contracts to Clayton Kershaw, Andre Ethier and James Loney, but non-tendered Hong-Chih Kuo.
General manager Ned Colletti said he still has interest in bringing Kuo back, but not through arbitration, where the lefty could earn around $3 million even though his ERA soared, he underwent a fifth elbow operation and experienced anxiety disorder that sidelined him for several months. A Minor League contract is more likely.
Kuo still shows flashes of the brilliance that led to a 1.20 ERA and All-Star appearance last year, but 23 walks in 27 innings this year and a 9.00 ERA came with the yips, baseball's pitching manifestation of anxiety disorder. Kuo gave indications at the end of the season that he wasn't sure he wanted to continue playing and Colletti said he wasn't sure, either.
"He's been through a lot of different things," Colletti said.
Colletti also said he was satisfied with Loney's explanation of his run-in with the law last month, when he was detained on suspicion of driving under the influence and hospitalized after a multi-car traffic collision, but was released without the filing of charges. Loney explained that the erratic behavior witnessed by California Highway Patrol officers was the result of becoming disoriented after hitting his head on the ceiling of his Maserati during the accident.
"I'm trusting James will make the right decision and do what's best," said Colletti. "Nothing more has come to light. He assured me he gave me an accurate account so I trust and believe him."
Colletti said the decision on Kershaw, the Cy Young Award winner, was made awhile ago.
"I think that was in August of '06 we decided to tender him," Colletti said with a laugh.
As for Gwynn, he will receive $850,000 in 2012 and $1.15 million in 2013, giving the 29-year-old son of the Hall of Famer a measure of security while the Dodgers again were able to backload the deal to bring Gwynn in at a below-market wage next year. In the midst of bankruptcy, the Dodgers are slashing $20 million off the 2011 payroll with the expectation that a new owner will take over next year.
Gwynn said the Dodgers suggested the two-year deal.
"At that point, my thought process changed," said Gwynn. "I hadn't considered that at all. I'm willing to take less than I might have made next year to get the extra year. A guy in my position, playing year to year since I've been in the big leagues, that's a big deal. On top of that, the coaching staff to a man I enjoy playing for."
And Gwynn will play a two-hour drive from his San Diego hometown, which was a critical element in his decision to sign with the Dodgers for $675,000 in 2011 after being non-tendered a year ago by the Padres. At that time, Tony Gwynn Sr. had just been diagnosed with cancer, which now is in remission.
"My dad's health is much better than a year ago," said Gwynn. "But that was a real big deal for me last year, with him going through cancer treatment; I wanted to be as close as possible. We were able to work out a contract last year when it was important for my family, and I'm excited to be able to work it out again."
Gwynn said he's prepared to fill the same role with the Dodgers -- the fourth outfielder to spell everyday veterans Ethier, Matt Kemp and Juan Rivera and be the defensive specialist.
While Gwynn's defense was at times spectacular, it should be noted that he also stepped up his offense, raising his average from .204 to .256, and played in a career-high 136 games. His 12 doubles, 22 stolen bases and 22 RBIs were career highs. He was 8-for-24 pinch-hitting.
"I ironed my swing out and was comfortable enough to trust it," said Gwynn. "It took awhile, but once July rolled around, after that, I was good to go. This is my first offseason where I'm working on the same swing as during the season. I'm excited. As good as the improvement was this year, I believe there's more in there."
Gwynn missed two weeks in September with a jammed left shoulder suffered stealing bases and said he let it rest until November to get the swelling out and rebuild strength, but he passed his physical and said it's healed. He said he also has put on 10 pounds of muscle from a year ago.
Colletti said he still needs to fill the middle relief role handled by free agent Mike MacDougal, who is still being considered.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.