Dodgers finalize deal with infielder Loretta

Updated: December 11, 2008, 2:03 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

LAS VEGAS -- The Los Angeles Dodgers finalized a $1.25 million, one-year contract with free agent utilityman Mark Loretta on Wednesday, helping further upgrade an infield that's been an offseason priority for the NL West champions.

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The sides had already reached a preliminary agreement at the winter meetings but Loretta needed to complete a physical.

It was the second deal in as many days for general manager Ned Colletti, who completed a $17.5 million, three-year contract with third baseman Casey Blake on Tuesday.

"Any time we can add a player with as much versatility and character as Mark has, it's going to tremendously help the team on the field and in the clubhouse," Colletti said. "We look forward to his bat, glove, and leadership whether he is starting or coming off the bench."

The 37-year-old Loretta, a native of Southern California, spent the past two seasons with the Houston Astros after playing for the Red Sox in 2006. He batted .280 with four homers and 38 RBIs in 101 games in 2008, his 14th major league season.

Loretta can make an additional $200,000 in performance bonuses. He would receive $25,000 each for 250 and 300 plate appearances, $50,000 for 400 plate appearances and $100,000 for 450 plate appearances.

Blake, acquired from Cleveland on July 16, plays third base and Loretta is a solid backup.

Colletti knows it could be a while before he knows whether free-agent slugger Manny Ramirez will return to the Dodgers after he helped the club win the division and reach the NL Championship Series this season. The Dodgers made Ramirez an offer more than a month ago but have not heard back from him.

The Dodgers are still pursuing free-agent shortstop Rafael Furcal but aren't expected to sign him for the four years he's seeking.

The 31-year-old Furcal was sidelined for all but 36 games last season with Los Angeles because of back problems that required surgery. He was activated from the 60-day disabled list during the final week after being sidelined since May 6.

Furcal batted .357 with five home runs and 16 RBIs. He turned down an offer from the Oakland Athletics on Friday, though A's general manager Billy Beane said he expected to speak further with Furcal agent Paul Kinzer.

"I'm sure we will," Beane said. "To say we won't would be stupidly deceiving."

Kinzer told ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick that he feels confident Furcal will match or even exceed the three-year, $39 million deal that he signed with the Dodgers in December 2005.

The Dodgers, Athletics, Royals and Blue Jays are pursuing Furcal, whose next contract will be for a duration of either three or four years. Kinzer plans to leave Las Vegas for Atlanta on Thursday morning and stay in regular touch by phone with Furcal, who is home in the Dominican Republic.

"I have to present him with all the information, and once he feels comfortable with everything, I don't think it will take long,'' Kinzer told Crasnick. "We won't mess around.''

Kinzer said Furcal will probably reach a decision on his 2009 destination by the middle or end of next week.

Information from ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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