Colletti Makes 'Toughest Decision'

The Dodgers, who backed themselves into a corner by trading their top minor league catching prospects, Carlos Santana and Lucas May, have decided not to offer arbitration to their one-time All-Star Russell Martin, who seemed to be the Los Angeles catcher for the next generation but whose performance has decreased over the last three seasons.

General manager Ned Colletti said non-tendering Martin was "one of the toughest decisions I've had to make, maybe ever."

The Dodgers were reluctant to have him win arbitration that would increase his $5.05m 2010 salary. Reports say they attempted to negotiate a more reasonable contract, Martin wanting $5 million guaranteed and the Dodgers offering $4.2 million. Sports Illustrated reported that the club also tried to trade him.

In his first All-Star season of 2007, Martin posted career highs in hitting (.293), doubles (32), home runs (19), RBIs (87) and stolen bases (21). In 2010, Martin hit .248 with 13 doubles, five homers, 26 RBIs and six steals. And the fact he missed the last two months of the 2010 season with a broken hip, prompted the Dodgers to offer $4.2 million plus $1.5 million in incentives.

Martin asked $5 million guaranteed salary and $1 million in incentives. So they are not that far apart and could still strike a compromise. "We tried many times to strike a deal. We just couldn't close the gap," Colletti said. "We're still interested in talking, and we'll see where it goes from there."

Martin, still rehabbing his injury, won't start running until later this month and won't start baseball activities until next month, even though he has not had any setbacks in his rehabilitation.

Martin, originally an infielder, hit .248 this year with five homers and 26 RBIs in 97 games. With an aging Casey Blake at third base, it could open up a spot for Martin if things could be worked out.

But the club looking for another catcher, and Colletti said he's now "pretty far down the road" with signing another catcher, presumably Ron Barajas, who was with the club over the final two months of the 2010 season.

The 35-year-old Barajas hit .297 with five homers in 25 games after being claimed from the Mets, a figure well above his normal numbers. He had played with Arizona, Texas, Philadelphia, Toronto and the Mets --each club allowing him to become a free agent-- before signing with the Dodgers. Over his 12 major league seasons he has hit .239 with a .284 on-base percentage and 109 home runs.

If signed, Barajas will team with A.J. Ellis behind the plate. Yet, Colletti left open the possibility of Martin's return as more than a catcher, namely at third base and even left field. But not at the salary Martin is currently seeking.

The Dodgers also non-tendered catcher left-handed reliever George Sherrill and outfielder Trent Oeltjen. They did tendered contracts to their three remaining arbitration-eligible players -- Chad Billingsley, Hong-Chih Kuo and James Loney.

Sherrill, who earned $4.5 million and struggling to a 6.69 ERA remained effective against left-handed hitters (.192 average). Oeltjen, a 27-year-old Australian, was acquired in midseason from Milwaukee and played in 14 games with the Dodgers in September, batting .217.

Also there are unconfirmed reports saying that the Dodgers may have signed Vincente Padilla before the deadline. Padilla would would give the Dodgers seven possible starters (Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, Ted Lilly and Jon Garland), allowing the 33-year-old Padilla to be a staff utility man.

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