A Tale of Three Pitchers

Three extremely talented pitchers: Greg Maddux, Eric Gagne and Daisuke Matsuzaka, may not end up on the Los Angeles Dodgers roster in 2007 for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is money. All three of them are represented by Scott Boras, a tough negotiator.

Maddux has said a number of times he wanted to return to the Dodgers for his 22nd major league season. He apparently liked the blend of veterans and young talent, and enjoyed the laid-back leadership of Manager Grady Little. The Dodgers felt the same way for in addition to pitching well, Maddux was a mentor to both veteran Derek Lowe and rookie Chad Billingsley.

But after General Manager Ned Colletti checked out the free-agent market, the Dodgers realize their need for a front-line pitcher, a big bat in the lineup and help in the bullpen, may squeeze their budget.

Maddux was pretty much a five-inning starter -- about 75 pitches -- last season, although the five innings were regularly outstanding. Overall he pitched 210 innings while going 15-14 with both the Cubs and the dodgers last season.

He started 12 times for the Dodgers had a 3.30 ERA after coming from the Cubs in a swap of gold glovers, with Cesar Izturis moving to Chicago.

The though is, the Dodgers want to sign left-hander Barry Zito, clearly the best starting pitcher among free agents, and are looking at boosting their power by signing Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Lee or Aramis Ramirez.

That's going eat up a good chunk of budget and it is not known if there will be enough bucks to sign Maddux, too.

The Dodgers declined the $12 million contract option for 2007 on Eric Gagne and there is a strong chance his time with the club is over. The Dodgers will pay a $1 million buyout.

Gagne set a major-league record that might never be broken by converting 84 consecutive save opportunities from late in the 2002 season through early 2004 and became the game's most feared closer.

But after signing a two-year, $19 million contract, Gagne was plagued by two elbow surgeries and a back surgery during the past two seasons. He made a total of 16 appearances over the life of the contract and posted nine saves.

Colletti said the club is "absolutely" open to negotiating to re-sign Gagne - even if it isn't entirely clear where Gagne would fit given that the Dodgers already have a reliable closer in Takashi Saito.

"We weren't going to pick up a $12 million option," Colletti said. "That's all this (move) is about."

Most clubs will be hesitant to give him anything more than a one-year deal until he proves he can stay injury-free over the long haul. The Dodgers might be able to sign Gagne to a one-year contract loaded with incentives.

And Colletti said he won't enter the bidding for Matsuzaka, the Los Angeles Times reports. "The posting money is a detriment to me," Colletti said. "You're going to have to invest a lot of money before you even talk about a contract."

The Dodgers were one of the teams expected to bid heavily on the star Japanese pitcher. Recently the Mariners and Angels dropped out of the Matsuzaka sweepstakes and this likely leaves just five serious bidders for the World Baseball Classic MVP: the Yankees, Mets, Cubs, Red Sox and Rangers.

Matsuzaka was formally posted by the Seibu Lions on Thursday, and MLB teams have until 5 PM Eastern time on Wednesday to submit their bid for the rights to negotiate exclusively with Matsuzaka. At that time, MLB will inform Seibu of the amount of the high bid, but not who placed it. The Lions will then have up to four days to accept or reject the bid.

Still Looking-- Dodgers player development director DeJon Watson is still looking for both a minor-league field coordinator and someone to manage the club's Triple-A Las Vegas affiliate. Watson said the managerial search had boiled down to three finalists, whom he declined to identify, and that he hoped to have someone in place by early next week. Watson said the field coordinator search will take longer. …The Dodgers and Takashi Saito, the Japanese pitcher the Dodgers signed last year for $500,000 and set a franchise rookie record with 24 saves, are in negotiations to determine whether he will remain with the Dodgers or return to Japan.