Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti confirmed Tuesday that his club is considering exploring the possibility of signing former Cy Young Award-winning closer Eric Gagne to a minor league contract. But Colletti tempered that confirmation by saying the negotiating process hasn't started and that he has yet to make so much as an initial inquiry to Gagne's agent, Scott Boras, about signing the free-agent right-hander.
Gagne, 34, last pitched in the majors in 2008 for the Milwaukee Brewers, who released him during spring training last year. But Dodgers assistant GM Logan White watched Gagne during a recent throwing session near the pitcher's Arizona home, the first step in the process of Gagne possibly returning to the club with which he had his greatest success.
"Logan saw him throw the other day, and that is all we have right now,'' Colletti said. "We aren't as far along as people would like us to be. I don't have any idea what [Gagne and Boras] are thinking or what they are looking for.''
Gagne won the Cy Young as the Dodgers' closer in 2003, when he was 55 for 55 in save opportunities, part of a string of 84 consecutive successful save chances that stretched over a three-year period. However, his reputation was somewhat tarnished when his name appeared in the December 2007 Mitchell report, which offered evidence that he had used human growth hormone. Although Gagne apologized to his Brewers teammates the following spring for "a distraction that shouldn't be taking place,'' he has yet to go into specifics about the allegations of performance-enhancing drug use.
The Dodgers' primary competition for Gagne's services is reportedly the Colorado Rockies, whose manager, Jim Tracy, was managing the Dodgers for the duration of Gagne's 84-save streak that ran from 2002 to 2004.
Following his Cy Young season, Gagne famously lost an arbitration hearing with the Dodgers and had to settle for a $5 million salary in 2004 rather than the $8 million he was seeking. He posted another 45 saves for the Dodgers in 2004, and following that season, he agreed to a two-year, $19 million contract with the Dodgers. But he battled elbow problems for most of those two years, during which he made a total of 16 appearances and saved nine games, effectively ending his tenure with the club.
If Gagne were to make the Dodgers' Opening-Day roster, he likely would fill a middle-innings role. The Dodgers already have a closer in Jonathan Broxton and a primary set-up man in George Sherrill, and there probably isn't more than one or two open spots left in a bullpen where Hong-Chih Kuo, Ronald Belisario, Ramon Troncoso and James McDonald (if he doesn't earn the fifth spot in the starting rotation) all are considered locks to make the club.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.