Dodgers Buy Out Contracts of Garland, Blake

The Dodgers did not exercise their options on pitcher Jon Garland and infielder Casey Blake, both of whom underwent season-ending operations in 2011. The moves don't preclude the Dodgers from re-signing either player at lower base salaries with performance bonuses, but neither would be counted on for significant roles. In Blake's case, he could be a backup corner infielder and pinch-hitter.

The club also outrighted infielder Eugenio Velez -- who ended the season with a record-breaking 0-for-37 in 2011, and is 0-for-46 stretching over the past two seasons hitless streak -- to Triple-A Albuquerque.

Garland, 32, went 1-5 in nine starts before undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder on July 11. He received $5 million this year and had an $8 million option for 2012 that would have vested if he pitched 190 innings. Instead, the Dodgers will pay a $500,000 buyout. That clause was an indication that both parties were aware of damage that might prevent Garland from finishing the season healthy.

Blake, 38, was expected to be the everyday third baseman but played hurt over virtually the entire 2011 season. He had a strained oblique muscle in Spring Training, was red hot with a .446 on-base percentage and .509 slugging percentage in 14 games, only to return to the disabled list before the month was over.

He developed a staph infection in his left elbow during the season and was finally sidelined with an arthritic neck that required surgery to open the spinal passage for a pinched nerve.

Blake was in the final year of a three-year, $17.5-million contract with a $6-million option for next season. Instead, the team will pay him a $1.25 million buyout. He was limited to 63 games, a .252 average, four homers and 26 RBIs.

Kemp to Ask for Big $$$
Matt Kemp came up just short of a 40-40 home run-stolen base season and will be a strong contender for the National League Most Valuable Player Award.

Kemp says he wants to stay in Los Angeles but his agent, Dave Stewart, said he is looking for a long term contract before the 2012 season (after which his current contract runs out). "This is not going to be a cheap deal; you're talking about some pretty heavy dollars," said Stewart.

Given that they are a bankrupt team with a broke owner who didn't spend this kind of money even when they were competing for championships, the sort of contract that will lock him up will take the some kind of magic to keep his 39 homers, 126 runs batted in, .324 average and 40 steals in Dodger Blue.

Stewart says he will recommend that once the 2012 season ends, Kemp should entertain offers from everywhere. It will be a market that could include a vacancy in center field for the Yankees and you know what that means. "I would think if the process goes into next year, past arbitration, it just makes sense you find out what the market is going to bear," Stewart said. "I work for Matt, but if you ask me how I would advise him, that's how I would advise him."

Dodgers' general manager Ned Colletti thinks he has the money, or at least the promise of the money, because he said he plans to go for it. "We'll sit down and see if we can hammer out something long-term with him; that's my intent," Colletti said. "I asked [Matt] a year ago, let's see how good you can be, give me max effort … and he's obviously done that … so now we sit down."

Stewart is an agent with only 10 clients, but he considers them all as family, and is unafraid to fight for their happiness. Remember, it was Stewart who stirred up the Dodgers' clubhouse last season when he publicly ripped the coaching staff for its perceived mistreatment of Kemp, leading to a coaching overhaul that has made Kemp comfortable and happy. "Last year there was a bad coaching staff, this year Matt felt so much better going to the ballpark every day; it made all the difference," said Stewart, referring to the departures of Bob Schaefer and Larry Bowa. "If somebody was going to trash me for saying what I said, that's fine, I'm used it, I was trying to protect my player."

"We'll be good listeners," said Stewart, and so will the rest of the battered Dodgers Nation.

Kemp Named Nominee for Aaron Award
Matt Kemp has been named the Dodger nominee for the 2011 Hank Aaron Award. Fan voting has begun exclusively online at MLB.com and the 30 Club sites. For the second straight year, a special panel of Hall of Fame players led by Hank Aaron will join fans in voting for the award, which is officially sanctioned by Major League Baseball and has recognized the most outstanding offensive performer in each League since it was established in 1999.

In his fourth full Major League campaign, Kemp, 27, put together one of the best all-around offensive seasons in Major League history. In addition to a Triple Crown chase that came down to the final week of the season, Kemp finished just one home run shy of becoming the fifth player in Major League history to hit at least 40 home runs and steal at least 40 bases in the same season.

Kemp finished the season ranked among the National League's top four in batting average (.324, 3rd), home runs (39, 1st), RBI (126, 1st), runs (115, 1st), stolen bases (40, T-2nd), on-base percentage (.399, 4th), slugging percentage (.586, 2nd), hits (195, 2nd), multi-hit games (57, T-1st) and total bases (353, 1st).

The 2011 All-Star became the first Dodger ever to lead the NL in homers, RBI and runs scored and just the seventh player in history to finish the season ranked in the top three in homers, average, RBI and steals in their respective league, joining Hall of Famers Ty Cobb (1907, 1909, 1910, 1911), Honus Wagner (1908), George Sisler (1920), Chuck Klein (1932), Willie Mays (1955) and Hank Aaron (1963) as the only players to accomplish this feat.

This year, the Hall of Fame panel will include two new members – personally selected by Hank Aaron – Roberto Alomar and Joe Morgan.  They join panelists from last year, which included Tony Gwynn, Paul Molitor, Willie McCovey, Billy Williams and Robin Yount, forming a group comprised of some of the greatest offensive players of all-time.  These Hall of Famers – who combined for 23,536 hits, 11,445 RBI and exactly 2,800 home runs – have all agreed to join Hank Aaron in lending their expertise to select the best offensive performers in each League. 

Beginning today and continuing through Sunday, October 9, fans will have the opportunity to select one American League and one National League winner from a list comprising one finalist per Club. The winners of the 2011 Hank Aaron Award will be announced during the 2011 World Series.

 Past winners of the Hank Aaron Award include: Jose Bautista and Joey Votto (2010); Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols (2009); Aramis Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis (2008); Alex Rodriguez and Prince Fielder (2007); Jeter and Ryan Howard (2006); David Ortiz and Andruw Jones (2005); Manny Ramirez and Barry Bonds (2004); Rodriguez and Pujols (2003); Rodriguez and Bonds (2001-02); Carlos Delgado and Todd Helton (2000) and Manny Ramirez and Sammy Sosa (1999).

The Hank Aaron Award was introduced in 1999 to honor the 25th Anniversary of Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's all-time home run record, and, at that time, was the first major award introduced by Major League Baseball in more than 25 years.  

Dodgers, MLB to Mediate Differences
The judge presiding over the Dodgers bankruptcy case has formally appointed a mediator, who is charged with trying to get the team and Major League Baseball to settle their differences over a reorganization plan for the Dodgers.

Joseph Farnan Jr., a retired federal district judge in Delaware, has been working with the two sides since early July at the request of bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross.

This week, Gross entered an order formally appointing Farnan as a mediator, with the Dodgers and Commissioner Bud Selig to split his fees. Gross says the mediation will be confidential.

The judge has scheduled four days of hearings starting Oct. 31 to consider dueling motions by the Dodgers and MLB that likely will determine the fate of the ball club.  

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