Bill Mueller to Sign With Dodgers

Free-agent third baseman Bill Mueller has chosen the Dodgers as his new employer, turning down the Pirates three year offer to accept two years in Los Angeles. Mueller has longtime ties to Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti, a former assistant GM with the Giants and earlier indicated he wanted to play on the West Coast.

In addition, they have made offers to center fielder Kenny Lofton and left fielder Reggie Sanders has reported.

Mueller's two-year contract works extremely well for the Dodgers, allowing 20-year-old wunderkind 3B Andy LaRoche to play at AAA Las Vegas in 2006 instead of rushing him to The Show.

Mueller, 34, was the American League batting champion in 2003, his first year with the Boston Red Sox, and played with them the past two seasons. He has a career on-base percentage of .373 over 10 major league seasons.

A 10-year veteran and switch-hitter, he batted .295 last season with 10 home runs and 62 RBIs. He also posted a .972 fielding percentage that ranked fourth among all third basemen in Major League Baseball. The previous year, he batted .283 with 12 home runs as part of Boston's World Series championship team.

Mueller was third among American League third basemen last season with an .802 OPS (on-base plus slugging), trailing only Yankee Alex Rodriguez and Baltimore's Melvin Mora.

In the fielding department, he was second in the American League (by .001) with a .972 fielding average and tied Rodriguez with a 2.62 range factor.

Mueller made $2.5 million last season and has been seeking a salary in the range of $4 million.

The Dodgers reportedly are on the verge of signing free-agent third baseman Bill Mueller, and also have extended offers to free-agent center fielder Kenny Lofton and outfielder Reggie Sanders,

Mueller, Lofton and Sanders all spent time with the Giants when new Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti was the Giants' assistant GM.

Lofton and Sanders, both 38, were members of the Giants' 2002 National League championship club. Mueller, 34, played for the Giants from 1996 to 2000, a period during which the team won two NL West titles.

Lofton is deciding between the Dodgers and Diamondbacks, with the Orioles running third, according to a source close to the negotiations.

Sanders, 38, is drawing interest from the Blue Jays, Orioles, Royals and an unidentified team in addition to the Dodgers. He likely would play left if he signed with the Dodgers, with Lofton taking over center and J.D. Drew remaining in right.

Lofton frequently hit second behind Jimmy Rollins with the Phillies last season, and likely would assume the same position with the Dodgers, hitting behind Rafael Furcal.

The Dodgers' pursuit of Lofton is a strong indication that they are not serious players for free-agent center fielder Johnny Damon.