Dodgers add Tomko to rotation
Another vet with playoff experience signed; Weaver next?
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers remain interested in re-signing pitcher Jeff Weaver, even after adding free agent pitcher Brett Tomko to the starting rotation (and payroll) Thursday.
"It doesn't rule out Jeff, or anybody else," general manager Ned Colletti said of the contract he gave Tomko, two years with a third-year option and $8.7 million guaranteed -- $3.6 million in 2006, $4.1 million in 2007 and a mutual option for 2008 at $4.5 million or a $1 million buyout. Tomko also can void the option, if it is exercised by the club, and collect the $1 million buyout.
The Dodgers' starting rotation now consists of Derek Lowe, Brad Penny, Odalis Perez and Tomko. Colletti said he's seeking a fifth veteran, preferring not to rely on youngsters Chad Billingsley, Edwin Jackson, D.J. Houlton or trades. Jon Garland of the White Sox is the name most frequently speculated.
If the Dodgers are to sign Weaver, they cannot do it after Jan. 8. Colletti would not say if he'd wait that long, adding that he was "not afraid" to pursue starters through staff over the last two seasons. He earned $9.35 million in 2005 and is seeking a four-year, $40 million deal. The Dodgers have until Jan. 8 to negotiate with him, and Tomko is seen as insurance if Weaver signs elsewhere.
"If we can add a fifth starter, that would be terrific," Colletti said. "I traded messages with (Weaver's agent) today. If it's not Jeff, we're still interested in a fifth starter."
He got a fourth starter in Tomko. The 32-year-old right-hander went 8-15 with a 4.14 ERA in 2005 for the San Francisco Giants, where Colletti was the assistant general manager. Tomko, who lives in the San Diego suburb of Poway, grew up 30 miles from Dodger Stadium in Orange County and said he's always felt comfortable playing at Chavez Ravine. He said the proximity to home and comfort level of rejoining Colletti were the key factors in his decision.
"The main reason was Ned. He gave me the chance in San Francisco," said Tomko. "It's loyalty, and to be part of what he's trying to do."
Agent Joe Longo said the Dodgers were in the background until early in the week, when they "stepped up" efforts to sign his client.
Tomko has won in double digits in five of his nine Major League seasons and has thrown at least 190 innings in each of the last four. He owns an 81-73 record with a 4.26 ERA in a career that includes stops in Cincinnati, Seattle, San Diego, St. Louis and San Francisco.
"He's a durable, 200-inning guy and gives us four starters capable of 180 to 220 innings," said Colletti. "He has more upside than he's shown. In his two years with the Giants, many of his starts he had the best stuff on the staff. If he has the support of a solid club behind him and run support, he'll pitch better, with more confidence. The right manager and the right staff in place will bring it out of him."
Colletti said new manager Grady Little's coaching staff is still taking shape. Among those rumored to be considered are current Dodger Minor League pitching coordinator Rick Honeycutt for pitching coach, Bill Robinson and Mike Cubbage.
Tomko appeared in the postseason with the 2000 Seattle Mariners, continuing a common thread found with Colletti's winter roster makeover. The Dodgers GM has signed six free agents (Tomko, Kenny Lofton, Nomar Garciaparra, Sandy Alomar Jr., Bill Mueller and Rafael Furcal). All have postseason experience. Like Tomko, Mueller and Lofton played for Colletti with the Giants.
"You can't diminish the importance (of postseason experience)," Colletti said. "When you get to mid-September, it's almost like the postseason. Guys who have been through that year after year have an advantage. When things go south, those players can steady the ship. I think it's got great value."
Colletti has committed more than $90 million for 17 signed players in a 2006 payroll that is almost certain to exceed $100 million.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.