Park Chooses Olympics over Dodgers

Chan Ho Park has pleased many Korean baseball fans by choosing loyalty to his country over his dreams. In an announcement posted to his website, the 34-year-old baseball player declared his decision to give up a contract with the Dodgers to stay with the Korean national team for Olympic preliminary games.

Park said in the announcement that he had been thinking hard about a few options after this season -- to go to Korea or Japan or to retire from the field -- when he was presented with the opportunity to sign with the Dodgers to play for the next spring camp.

But when the team learned that Park planned to play for Korea in preliminary Olympic games, the Dodgers, afraid of an injury, told Park he would have to leave the national team and sign the contract immediately.

"After giving long and deep thought to the matter, I concluded that I should respect loyalty," Park wrote. "Both are important to me -- to sign a contract with the Dodgers to pursue my dreams and goals, and to participate in the Olympics for my country. But the thought of leaving the national team bothered me most."

The decision puts Park back to square one in the U.S., leaving him looking for a new contract. His Korean fans meanwhile have praised the decision and expressed their gratitude, saying Park has sacrificed his interests for the country.

Park is the captain of the national team, which is currently training in Okinawa, Japan. Korea will play preliminary games with Japan and Taiwan from Dec. 1 through 3.

Trade Rumors-- The latest trade rumors, and I emphasize that they are rumors, include:

The Orioles and Dodgers have discussed a trade that would send left-hander Erik Bedard to the Dodgers for a package that includes 23-year-old outfielder Matt Kemp, according to a source familiar with the talks.

Apparently, Kemp is the key to any trade discussed. The 2007 Bill James Handbook projections predict that the young outfielder will record this mark in 2008:
gm    ab   r   h  2b 3b hr  bi  ave  obp  slug
136  490  73  158  31 6 16  87 .322 .365 .508
Bedard has won 28 games the past two seasons, striking out 221 hitters in 182 innings during the 2007 season before a strained oblique shut him down. He is arbitration eligible this winter and is eligible for free agency after the 2009 season.

It is unclear who would join Kemp in a trade with the Orioles, but the Dodgers are a popular stop for teams looking to upgrade with young and inexpensive talent.

Hunter Interested in L.A.-- Free agent center fielder Torii Hunter is interested in signing with the Dodgers. "The Dodgers are definitely near the top," Hunter told Yahoo! Sports.

"With Joe Torre there, things have got to change. He's bringing his history with them. I'm telling you, they're going to start winning."

Hunter, 32, hit .287 with 28 home runs and 107 RBI during an All-Star season with Minnesota Twins. He also stole 18 bases and won a Gold Glove.

Ken Rosenthal of ESPN.com writes, "Yes, Hunter will be overpaid as a free agent — he turns 33 next season and could decline over the course of a long-term deal.

"Andruw Jones, the other top center fielder on the market, is more than two years younger than Hunter. He is superior defensively, and until last season, was superior offensively, too. The problem with Jones, at least from the Dodgers' perspective, is that he lacks Hunter's presence.

"Aaron Rowand, who is four months younger than Jones, offers intangibles similar to Hunter's, but is more a leader by example. By adding Hunter on top of manager Joe Torre, the Dodgers would improve their clubhouse culture dramatically.

"Declining veterans such as Jeff Kent and Nomar Garciaparra would lose stature. Brash youngsters such as Matt Kemp would learn to show more respect."

"The Dodgers might even be more comfortable trading for Marlins third baseman Miguel Cabrera, whose dedication is in question. A deal for Cabrera might cost the team Kemp, but rest assured that the Dodgers would not again finish 10th in the National League in runs scored.

"The signing of Hunter would force Pierre to left field, with Kemp and/or Ethier in right. Hunter might not be as dynamic offensively playing his home games at Dodger Stadium. But for the Dodgers, a center fielder who has averaged 30 homers and 103 RBIs the past two seasons would be a modern-day Duke Snider."

Hunter said recently that his goal is to make a decision next week on which team to play for, before baseball's winter meetings on Dec. 3.

He said he expects to check back with the Twins before signing a contract with another club. That would give the Twins, the only team he's ever played for since they drafted him in the first round in 1993, a chance to make a final offer.

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