Dodgers Get Their Man

Baseball is a game where you win some and lose some, and that is again true in the wild and expensive free agent market. GM Ned Colletti landed righthander Jason Schmidt, the pitcher he has been gunning for most of the post-season, paying him some $47 million over the next three years. At the same time they lost Greg Maddux and probably Eric Gagne.

It is an extension of Colletti's Plan B, devised when the few big hitters available in the scramble signed with other clubs for astronomical figures. So he switched to stockpiling starting pitching, betting that would lead eventually to a trade and the acquisition of the hitter or hitters he is looking for.

Starters on the Dodger roster now include Derek Lowe, Brad Penny, Randy Wolf, Hong-Chic Kuo, Chad Billingsley, Mark Hendrickson as well as Brett Tomko who started and relieved for Los Angeles last season.

The Dodgers would not confirm the signing pending a physical exam but already in Dodger Blue is Stan Conte, Schmidt's trainer while with the Giants.

It is both an addition for the Dodgers and a subtraction for the Giants, who lose a solid member of their starting staff.

The 34-year-old Schmidt was 11-9 with a 3.59 ERA in 2006, making 32 starts and throwing 213.1 innings. He had three complete games, tripling the Dodgers' totals from last season when only Derek Lowe worked a complete contest. Over 12 Major League seasons, Schmidt has a 127-90 record and 3.91 ERA.

The Dodgers out-bid the Seattle Mariners, Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals to land the big righthander.

The Dodgers also announced that they have signed two-time All-Star catcher Mike Lieberthal to a one-year contract with a club option for a second year. Sources say he will be paid $1.15 million in 2007 with a team option for 2008 and a $100,000 buyout.

"Mike is a veteran catcher who can help our club in a lot of different ways," said Colletti. "As a former Gold Glove Award winner, he has a lot to offer Russell Martin and he'll be able to provide valuable leadership in the clubhouse. He's another local player who knows what it means to be a Dodger."

Lieberthal, 34, was named to the National League All-Star team in 1999 and 2000 and earned the Rawlings Gold Glove Award in 1999. During his 13-year career with the Phillies, he has a .275 lifetime batting average with 150 homers and 609 RBI. He became the franchise's all-time leader in games caught and his 10 Opening Day starts with Philadelphia is also a club record.

Last season, Lieberthal appeared in 67 games, batting .273 with nine homers and 36 RBI. He had two stints on the disabled list for a left knee contusion suffered when he was hit by a pitch and a left hip strain. Prior to 2006, Lieberthal had appeared in 100 or more games in seven of the previous nine seasons, including a career-high 145 games in 1999.

Since 1997, the right-handed hitting receiver has caught 1,060 games, the seventh-most among all Major League catchers. He also has 141 home runs during that span, the fifth-most among Major League receivers behind Mike Piazza (269), Ivan Rodriguez (202), Javy Lopez (193) and Jorge Posada (193).

Lieberthal made his Major League debut at Dodger Stadium on June 30, 1994 and his finest season came in 1999 when he hit a career-high 31 homers and drove in 96 runs for Philadelphia while batting .300. That year, Lieberthal became the sixth catcher in Major League history to bat .300 and hit 30 homers in a season, joining former Dodgers Mike Piazza, Roy Campanella and Rick Wilkins, Joe Torre and Gabby Hartnett.

The Dodgers lost Greg Maddux to free agency and are on the cusp of losing Eric Gagne as the Winter Meetings move on in Orlando, Florida. And General Manager Ned Colletti's search for another outfielder and a starting pitcher continue.

The Dodgers refused to guarantee a large contract for Gagne and his agent Steve Boras noted it was "very likely" he would be signed quickly. The Dodgers apparently would guarantee no more than $1 million.

Arizona may be his final destination because he makes his winter home outside Phoenix and the Diamondbacks' president is former Dodgers official Derrick Hall.

Future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux has agreed to a Two-year, $20 million contract with the Padres. The first year is guaranteed at $10 million and has a base of $6 million in 2008 with incentives -- 160 to 200 innings pitched -- that could bring him up to $10 million again.

The Dodgers were willing to give Maddux a two-year deal, and about the same a mount of money the Padres paid. But Colletti and Boras, still estranged from the Luke Hochevar incident last season, left the negotiations up to Kim Ng, Dodgers assistant general manager, and special advisor Bill Lajoie.

v Colletti May have interest in free-agent outfielder Luis Gonzalez, but denied claims by Gonzalez's agent, Gregg Clifton, that he had made an offer. Gonzalez is also being pursued by Baltimore and St. Louis. Gonzalez dropped from 57 home runs in 2001 to 15 in 2006, but he also had 52 doubles and scored 93 runs.

v The Dodgers were interested in outfield Kevin Mench of Milwaukee after hits hit 25 home runs for Texas. He had only 13 for Milwaukee in 2006 and the Brewers might be interested in lefty Mark Hendrickson in a trade.

v Texas has shown interest in outfielder Jason Repko and the Rangers have extra middle relievers to trade.

v Atlanta outfielder Andruw Jones, a player the Dodgers have discussed for a possible trade, wants to play the 2007 season in Atlanta.

v The Dodgers one-year, $1 million deal with closer Takashi Saito who saved 24 games in 2006 doubles Saito's salary from his rookie season and could pay him up to $1.3 million with incentives. Saito will receive bonuses of $25,000 for 30, 35, 40 and 45 games finished, $50,000 each for 50 and 55 games finished and $100,000 if he finishes 60 games or more.

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