Blake Signs For Three More Years

The Dodgers agreed to terms with third baseman Casey Blake on a three-year contract with a club option for the 2012 season. "We are excited to bring back a player whose performance and leadership off the field contributed so much to our division championship this year," Colletti said. "Our club changed when Casey arrived, and we are thrilled that he wants to continue his career with the Dodgers."

The contract includes salaries of $5 million in 2009, $6 million in 2010, $5.25 million in 2011 and a $1.25 million buyout of a $6 million option in 2012.    

The Dodgers went 34-26 after Colletti acquired Blake July 26 from the Cleveland Indians for two minor leaguers, catcher Carlos Santana and right-handed pitcher Jon Meloan.  The deal also included cash considerations.   

Starting July 26, Blake's 10 home runs ranked second on the club to Manny Ramirez's 18.    

Blake, 35, matched his career high with 36 doubles in 2008, and batted .274 with 21 homers, 81 RBI, and 71 runs scored in a combined 152 games with the Dodgers and Indians. With the Dodgers, he hit .251 with 12 doubles, 10 homers, and 23 RBI in 58 regular-season games.   

Blake's .985 fielding percentage at third base starting July 26 was the best in the National League over that span and was second among major league third basemen behind Jack Hannahan's .991 percentage with Oakland.  Blake started at third base in 56 of the Dodgers' 60 regular-season games beginning July 26.   

The Iowa native is a career .264 hitter with 201 doubles, 128 home runs, and 447 RBI in 917 games over 10 major league seasons with Toronto (1999), Minnesota (2000-01, 2002), Baltimore (2001), Cleveland (2003-08), and the Dodgers (2008).  He has logged at least 30 doubles in each of his five full big league campaigns.   

Blake hit .267 (8-for-30) with a homer and four RBI in eight post-season games in 2008, his second straight playoff appearance.  He was with Cleveland in 2007, which advanced to the American League Championship Series.

Manager Joe Torre often said that the trade for Blake was responsible for turning around the Dodgers' season.

Blake's options apparently narrowed last week to the Dodgers and Minnesota, something Colletti confirmed that Blake's agent, Jim McDowell, had told him. But the Twins pulled out over the weekend after Blake reportedly spurned their two-year offer, with an option for 2011, that would have paid Blake $12 million through 2010.

?The Dodgers' willingness to guarantee a third year probably was the determining factor in their ability to retain Blake.  

?Signing Blake will mean Blake DeWitt, who had a solid rookie season for the Dodgers and was their primary third baseman before Blake was acquired, will move to second base to replace Jeff Kent. That would leave shortstop as the Dodgers' only remaining infield hole, and the club still has hope of re-signing free agent Rafael Furcal.

?Furcal is seeking a four-year contract, something Colletti said the Dodgers aren't willing to give him. But Furcal turned down a four-year offer from Oakland, believed to be for $35 million to $40 million, over the weekend.   

The Dodgers probably won't offer more than two years, presumably because of Furcal's inability to stay healthy over the past couple of seasons and because club officials believe top shortstop prospect Ivan De Jesus Jr. will be ready to take over the position by 2011 if not sooner.  

?Colletti met with Furcal's representatives on Monday, a fact that in itself was a sign of progress because the Dodgers had all but given up on him.

What About Saito>
Takashi Saito might be let go by the Dodgers if he doesn't sign a new contract by Friday, which is the deadline to tender contracts to players. "The last time we needed him to pitch, he couldn't pitch," Colletti said. "Has he become healthy since then? I don't know if I could answer that." Saito figures to get a significant raise from the $2 million he earned this year if he goes to arbitration, something to which he would entitled if the Dodgers tender him a contract.

Torre Discussed Beimel, Penny
Tony Jackson of the Los Angeles Daily News spoke to manager Joe Torre, who made his first appearance at the Winter Meetings, and asked about both Joe Beimel and Brad Penny.

About Beimel, he said, "You make a decision as to what you want to do. We just felt Joe was inconsistent. He took the ball, whether good or bad, and went out there on a regular basis. I love Joe, but he wasn't as good against left-handed hitters as he had been in the past."

And on Penny: "I thought it was best that he go out there on his own. He was uncomfortable, and I know he had some physical issues. We tried to use him out of the bullpen, but I think he was a little hesitant about doing that. Maybe the fact he was becoming a free agent had something to do with that."

In other news, former big-league pitcher Kris Benson is in Las Vegas looking for a job and says the Dodgers are among the teams offering one. Benson hasn't pitched in the big leagues since undergoing rotator cuff surgery early in 2007. Benson made 13 starts split between Single A and Triple A in the Philadelphia organization last summer to prove he's healthy. Benson, 34, said the Indians and Blue Jays also expressed interest in inviting him to spring training as well. ...Former Dodgers catcher David Ross signed with the Atlanta Braves and former Dodger Hiram Bocachica signed by the Seibu Lions where he played last season. ...The A's signed Dodgers minor league free agent RHP Jerome Williams to a minor league contract, with an invitation to spring training.

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