Thursday, February 18, 2010
Source: Dodgers, Gagne agree to deal
By Tony Jackson
Eric Gagne will return to his roots -- and the scene of his glory days as baseball's most dependable closer -- in an effort to revive his injury-plagued career after agreeing to terms Thursday on a minor league contract with the Dodgers, a source close to the situation said.
The club is expected to announce the deal Friday.
Gagne, 34, last pitched in the majors in 2008 for the Milwaukee Brewers, who released him during spring training last year. The Montreal native spent last season with the Quebec Capitals of the independent Can-Am League.
Gagne received offers from the Dodgers and Colorado Rockies after separate throwing sessions in front of club officials, although multiple sources said his session for the Rockies was underwhelming. Not that it mattered, because Gagne had made it clear to the Dodgers that he preferred to pitch for them.
The move carries virtually no financial risk because it includes no guaranteed major league money unless Gagne makes the club in spring training, and it is difficult to envision him accepting a minor league assignment if he doesn't. The deal contains an escape clause, allowing Gagne to again become a free agent if he doesn't make the team, something that is fairly standard for minor league deals signed by major league veterans.
Originally signed by the Dodgers as an undrafted free agent in 1995, Gagne won the Cy Young Award as the team's closer in 2003, when he was a perfect 55 for 55 in save opportunities. That was part of a string of 84 consecutive successful save chances that stretched over a three-year period.
However, Gagne's reputation was tarnished when his name appeared in the December 2007 Mitchell Report, which offered evidence he had used human growth hormone during his time with the Dodgers. Although Gagne apologized to his Brewers teammates the next spring for "a distraction that shouldn't be taking place," he has yet to go into specifics about his alleged performance-enhancing drug use.
Gagne's dominance as a closer continued through the 2004 season. But after signing a two-year, $19 million contract with the Dodgers before 2005, he battled elbow problems for most of those two seasons and underwent three surgical procedures, including two on his right elbow. He made only 16 appearances and saved nine games for the Dodgers in 2005 and 2006.
Gagne posted 26 saves over the next two seasons, during which he pitched for Texas, Boston and Milwaukee, but he was on the disabled list five times in that stretch because of injuries to his shoulder, hip and elbow.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.