Sabathia slipping from Dodgers’ grasp?

Even as the Dodgers’ deals with Mark Loretta and Casey Blake appear to be either done or close to done, it might not help their effort to sign CC Sabathia, something the Dodgers aren’t expected to try to do until they fill their shortstop vacancy. The word around here is that Giants officials are supremely confident that they are going to sign the big lefty, this despite the fact they are already paying all that money to Barry Zito. If Sabathia does sign with the Giants, that would dramatically change their prospects in the very-winnable N.L. West next season. I’ll update when I know more.

Tomorrow notes: Blake deal not quite done

Just filed these for tomorrow’s paper, updates on Casey Blake, Rafael Furcal, CC Sabathia and Manny Ramirez and a bonus note on Trevor Hoffman/Takashi Saito.

By Tony Jackson
Staff Writer
LAS VEGAS — Although all indications are that the Dodgers are close to re-signing free-agent third baseman Casey Blake to a contract believed to be worth about $17 million over three years, general manager Ned Colletti said Monday night that there was no agreement and that he didn’t plan to meet with Blake’s representatives again until today.
“We have had continuing discussions over the last few days,” Colletti said. “We had a long get-together on Saturday before we came (to the winter meetings). Hopefully, we’re getting closer (to an agreement).”
Blake’s options apparently were 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, whom they acquired from the Cleveland Indians on July 26 and who hit .251 with 10 homers and 23 RBI after that trade.
Signing Blake would 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.
“(The talks were) cordial, and perhaps there is more to discuss,” Colletti said. “As of three weeks ago, I didn’t think there was anything to discuss.”
Colletti stopped short of saying he wouldn’t give Furcal more than two years.
“It all depends on how it’s structured and what it entails,” Colletti said.

Sabathia update
Colletti cleared up a misunderstanding after it was widely reported that left-hander CC Sabathia, the top free-agent pitcher on this year’s market, had told him he wants to pitch for the Dodgers. What Colletti actually said was that Sabathia had made the Dodgers aware, not directly but through conversations with third parties, that he had a desire to pitch for them.
Sabathia’s failure to accept a six-year, $140 million offer from the New York Yankees, an offer that has been on the table for about three weeks, seems to indicate that he has no desire to pitch in New York. Sabathia grew up in Vallejo and recently purchased a home in Southern California, facts that might indicate the Dodgers and San Francisco Giants are the two clubs with the inside track.
However, the Dodgers are highly unlikely to sign Sabathia until they have a complete infield because given Sabathia’s price tag, signing him might deplete the club’s financial resources to the point that other needs couldn’t be adequately addressed.
Colletti did say Sabathia is enticing enough that the Dodgers would be willing to break from their recent tradition of offering no more than a three-year contract to any pitcher.

Miscellany
Colletti continued to express annoyance at the fact that Manny Ramirez’s agent, Scott Boras, still hasn’t been in communication regarding the free-agent outfielder since the Dodgers made a two-year, $45 million offer. That offer which carries a club option for 2011, was made more than a month ago and later rescinded. But the fact no other club is known to be strongly pursuing Ramirez could be an indication there isn’t much of a market for him and that he could eventually fall back into the Dodgers’ laps. …
Colletti said the Dodgers had some interest in free-agent closer Trevor Hoffman, but only if the club doesn’t offer a contract to Takashi Saito, who battled elbow problems this season and whose health remains a question. Saito, who will turn 39 in February, made $2 million last season and is eligible for arbitration. But the Dodgers are highly unlikely to go to a hearing with him if he doesn’t agree to terms.

Sabathia wants to sign with Dodgers?

According to this espn.com report, he does. Or at least that is what he reportedly told Ned Colletti in the hotel lobby last night. It is rare for players to attend the winter meetings, but considering this is the marquee free-agent pitcher on this year’s market, it is understandable that Sabathia would be here. Anyway, here is the link.

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=3755609

Casey Blake update

OK, I am told the Dodgers are NOT close to re-signing Casey Blake, but if you listen closely to the words of Ned Colletti when he held court with the media for more than an hour following the Greg Maddux formal retirement announcement today, it sure sounds like Colletti is more hopeful of doing so than he has been in recent weeks, a fact that could have something to do with the Minnesota Twins walking away from negotiations with the veteran 3B last week.
“We were negotiating with Casey all along, and we continue to do so,” Colletti said. “I think if we lock Casey up, it will be a huge piece for us. It will give us a third baseman who has character and is team-oriented.”
Could be nothing, but it sounds like something.

Dodgers’ trio misses out, along with almost everyone else

Former New York Yankees second baseman Joe Gordon was the only player elected to the Hall of Fame this morning on the Veterans’ Committee ballot, but no one else who was on that ballot — including Dodgers legends Gil Hodges and Maury Wills and current manager Joe Torre, who was on the ballot as a player and is a lock to make it as a manager one day — got enough votes. Former Cubs 3B Ron Santo, who is becoming the Susan Lucci of Hall of Fame hopefuls, led all post-WWII players with 39 votes, appearing on 60.9 percent of the ballots, but under the current rules, that wasn’t enough.

Manny, Blake and D-Lowe all reject arbitration

This comes as no surprise to anyone, and it really doesn’t mean anything. The Dodgers can continue to negotiate with all three. What it does mean is that if any those players signs elsewhere, the Dodgers will get compensatory draft picks, two each (one first-round, one sandwich) for Ramirez and Lowe and one (sandwich) for Blake. Winter meetings begin in earnest tomorrow. First order of business is tomorrow morning’s announcement of the veterans’ committee ballot for the Hall of Fame.

Twins break off negotiations with Casey Blake

Was just informed of this by my buddy LaVelle Neal of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, who said the Twins have decided to move on to other 3B options. If that’s true, and if it’s also true that Blake’s list had been narrowed to the Twins and Dodgers (and that’s what is being widely reported out there), then that would seem to suggest the Dodgers now have a golden opportunity to re-sign this guy and move Blake DeWitt to 2B. The Twins reportedly offered Blake a two-year, $6 million deal with an option for 2011.

Greg Maddux to retire

According to various reports that have come out in the past hour or so, his agent, Scott Boras, announced the decision earlier today and said that Maddux will formally announce the decision on Monday in Las Vegas, where he lives and where baseball’s annual winter meetings are set to begin that day. Can’t say it’s much of a surprise, given his age (42) and the fact he clearly had declined even though he won 14 games as recently as 2007. But there is no disputing the fact that he is one of the all-time greats, a 355-game winner who will go into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. And of course, he finished his legendary career with the Dodgers, going 2-4 with a 5.09 ERA in seven starts after they acquired him from the Padres on Aug. 19. He pitched out of the bullpen in the playoffs, giving up two unearned runs in four innings.