Tony Gwynn, Dodgers agree to deal
The Los Angeles Dodgers agreed to terms with Tony Gwynn Jr. on a $2 million, two-year contract Monday, less than five hours before the deadline for tendering contract offers to players who, like Gwynn, are eligible for arbitration. The Dodgers also non-tendered reliever Hong-Chih Kuo, a move that was somewhat expected, making him a free agent for now.
A source with knowledge of the situation said Gwynn will get $850,000 in 2012 and $1.15 million in 2013.
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A source confirmed the terms of the deal to ESPN.com's Jayson Stark.
As expected, the Dodgers did tender offers to their three other arbitration-eligible players, left-hander and reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, first baseman James Loney and right fielder Andre Ethier.
Kuo received $2.725 million in 2011 and likely would have received a raise in arbitration despite coming off his worst big league season when he posted a 9.00 ERA in 40 appearances and battled injuries and the yips. By non-tendering Kuo, an All-Star as recently as 2010 who has spent his entire professional career in the Dodgers organization, the Dodgers now are free to re-sign him at a lower salary, but so are all 29 other clubs.
"We are interested in bringing him back on a different type of deal, so we'll see if there is a match there," said Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti, who declined to specify whether the club would be willing to give Kuo a major league contract.
Alan Chang, Kuo's Chicago-based agent, said his client is definitely open to returning to the Dodgers, but that it is far from guaranteed that he will.
"Kuo is appreciative of the opportunity provided him over the years, and the Dodgers also expressed their intention to continue working with him," Chang said. "Now, we have to find common ground, and we also have the option of exploring the market for him, which we will do."
In addition to the yips, Kuo underwent a fourth surgical procedure on his left elbow following the season, leading some to wonder whether he simply would retire. But Chang said Kuo is committed to pitching in 2012.
"There is no doubt about that," Chang said. "He is doing really well in his rehab. He started a throwing program last week, and he will be on track for spring training. There is no doubt he will be 100 percent."
Gwynn might well have been non-tendered for the second year in a row, making him a free agent, had he not agreed to terms. Colletti let it be known at last week's winter meetings that he was still somewhat in the market for a free-agent left-handed pinch hitter -- a source later confirmed that longtime American League designated hitter Hideki Matsui was among those candidates -- and if such a player had been signed, that also might have pushed Gwynn out because the Dodgers are short on roster spots.
Gwynn made $675,000 in 2011 -- a bargain because the Dodgers got him last winter as a free agent after the San Diego Padres non-tendered him -- but as a four-plus arbitration-eligible player, he stood to receive between $1.3 million and $1.5 million in 2012 if the Dodgers had gone through the arbitration process with him.
The Dodgers' willingness to go to a two-year deal, although heavily weighted toward the second year, made it easier for the sides to come to an agreement.
"He played really well for us," Colletti said of Gwynn. "He is one of the better defenders in the league, and he has great versatility, especially to give Matt (Kemp) a rest because he is a true center fielder. He has the ability to steal a base and come off the bench and get a hit and, from time to time, to play on a regular basis. That made us feel that for the right deal, to do something more than one year could be appealing to him, and it was. And it was appealing to us because we have cost certainty here for a couple of years.
"He has become a big part of our club and a big part of our clubhouse, as well."
Gwynn hit .256 for the Dodgers in 2011, with 12 doubles, two homers and 22 RBIs, and posted a .308 on-base percentage. But he proved to be one of the Dodgers' most valuable defensive players, saving two games with diving catches in left field. Still, he could see diminished playing time in 2012 because he will be considered the team's fifth outfielder, with Juan Rivera and Jerry Sands likely to get the bulk of the starts in left.
As a pinch hitter, a role he likely will fill often because he and Adam Kennedy are the only left-handed bats on the Dodgers bench, Gwynn was solid, going 8 for 24 with a double and a triple and a .407 OBP. Colletti said during last week's winter meetings that he was considering signing a free-agent, left-handed pinch hitter, but he said the Gwynn signing fills that need, effectively leaving the Dodgers with just one remaining spot to fill, that being a seventh-inning reliever.
The club still hopes to re-sign veteran right-hander Mike MacDougal for that role.
"We're still talking," Colletti said of negotiations with MacDougal, who after posting a 2.05 ERA in 69 appearances likely will command far more than the $500,000 the Dodgers paid him in 2011. "We are moving along a little bit at a time, I think."
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
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