Dodgers bid for Japanese 3rd baseman

The Dodgers appear to be the favorites not only to earn negotiating rights with Norihiro Nakamura, but also to sign the slugging free-agent third baseman from Japan. Reports say he is "very likely" to end up with the Dodgers. Nakamura said he would be willing to play for about $500,000 annually -- a 90 percent cut from his 2004 salary with the Kintetsu Buffaloes, roughly $5 million.

But first the Dodgers must secure rights to Nakamura, 31, who has spent his entire 13-year career in Japan with Kintetsu.

A number of other teams submitted bids for the right to negotiate with the third baseman. Nakamura has been rated an average major-league player and his rights may be had for a nominal bid.

He is likely to be offered only a minor-league contract and an invitation to major-league spring training, with a chance to make the club.

The results of the bidding may be announced today or Tuesday. The bidding closed Friday, after which Major League Baseball was to submit all bids to the Japanese commissioner's office. The amount of the winning bid will be paid by the winning team to the Kintetsu club, which had Nakamura under contract through at least 2006.

Only then will the team winning Nakamura's rights will be free to begin negotiations.

If Nakamura signs a minor-league contract, he has said he will return to Japan if he doesn't earn a spot in the major league team.

Even if Nakamura were to make the club out of camp, he wouldn't be much more than a backup player behind new third baseman Jose Valentin.

Although Nakamura hit at least 31 homers five seasons in a row, from 1998 to 2002, he dropped to 23 in 2003 and 19 in 2004. He also hit a combined .255 the past two seasons.

Over a very brief trial -- three games, four at bats -- he didn't impress the Dodgers last spring, when he joined the club for the first few weeks of camp while rehabilitating a knee injury.

He has won four Gold Gloves in Japan. His best year offensively was 2001, when he posted career highs in average (.320), homers (46) and RBI (132).