Dodgers bring back Garciaparra for two more years

Updated: November 21, 2006, 3:03 AM ET
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- Six-time All-Star Nomar Garciaparra and the Los Angeles Dodgers agreed Monday to an $18.5 million, two-year contract.

Hit Machine
Nomar Garciaparra

There's some question about Nomar Garciparra's durability but there's no doubt he can hit. Only two players with at least 5,000 career plate appearances have a higher career batting average than Garciaparra.

Todd Helton .333
Vladimir Guerrero .325
Garciaparra .318
Derek Jeter .317
Manny Ramirez .314

The 33-year-old Garciaparra, the NL comeback player of the year, will get a $2.5 million signing bonus, a salary of $7.5 million next season and $8.5 million in 2008. His deal also contains performance bonuses and a no-trade provision.

A two-time AL batting champion, Garciaparra shifted to first base with the Dodgers last season, his first with the team. He hit .303 with 93 RBI and 20 home runs to tie J.D. Drew for the team lead in homers.

"I was hoping to be back and wanted to be back. I'm glad I didn't have to go anywhere else," Garciaparra said.

He grew up in nearby Whittier and graduated from St. John Bosco High in suburban Bellflower.

Elias Says
Nomar Garciaparra
Garciaparra
The Dodgers announced Monday that they have re-signed Nomar Garciaparra to a two-year contract. Garciaparra, who hit 20 home runs and batted .303 for the L.A. in 2006, was the first player to hit .300 with at least 20 homers in his first season with the Dodgers since rookie Johnny Frederick did it in 1929 (.328, 24 HR).

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Garciaparra earned $8.5 million last season, including $2.5 million in performance bonuses. He signed a one-year deal with the Dodgers last winter. Injuries limited him to a total of 82 games in the previous two years. He was slowed late in the season by quadriceps and oblique muscle injuries.

"Nomar played a huge role in the Dodgers' success last season and an offensive threat like him is not easy to find," Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said in a statement. "His versatility, mental toughness, clutch performances and leadership capabilities make him a perfect fit for the team."

Garciaparra had five game-winning hits last season, including his two-run shot in the 10th inning in an 11-10 victory over San Diego on Sept. 18. The Dodgers tied a major league record but hitting four consecutive homers in the bottom of the ninth.

After playing mostly shortstop in his previous 10 big league seasons, Garciaparra made a seamless switch to first in Los Angeles. He made only four errors in 1,124 chances for a .996 fielding percentage, the NL's second-highest for a first baseman last season.

"Players and people like Nomar are difficult to find," Colletti said. "Who he is and how he plays made it imperative that we kept him in a Dodger uniform."

Asked if he expects to remain at first, Garciaparra said the decision was up to manager Grady Little.

"I'm sure there'll be a time when I play first, maybe a time when I'll play a different position," he said. "Wherever Grady needs me, he can pencil me in. If he needs me to catch, I'll catch -- but I don't think he will."

Los Angeles was swept by the New York Mets in the first round of the playoffs and is 1-12 in the postseason since winning the 1988 World Series.

Garciaparra was AL Rookie of the Year in 1997 and won his first batting title in 1999. He was considered one of baseball's best shortstops for several years while playing with the Boston Red Sox.

He hit .283 with nine homers and 30 RBI for the Chicago Cubs two seasons ago, when he earned $8.25 million. With the Cubs, he tore his left groin running out of the batter's box and was out for several months.

Garciaparra -- who grew up in nearby Whittier and graduated from St. John Bosco High in suburban Bellflower -- had said he was interested in staying with the Dodgers.

"I've loved every minute of it," he said last month.

Garciaparra became all the more attractive to the Dodgers after Drew opted out of the final three years of his contract earlier this month, making him eligible to become a free agent.

Before the groin injury in 2005, he was sidelined for 81 games in 2004 with three injuries -- to his Achilles tendon, left wrist and right groin.

He had surgery on his right wrist when he was with the Red Sox in 2001.

"It's part of the game," he said of injuries. "I've battled through them, come back strong. That's not on my mind now. I'm feeling great now."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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