Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Scott Podsednik, apparently believing he stands to get more on the open market, declined his half of a $2 million, mutual contract option for 2011 on Thursday, meaning he automatically becomes a free agent.
The Dodgers had exercised their half of the option on Monday, leaving Podsednik with 72 hours to decide whether to remain with the club for another year.
What that means for the Dodgers in left field, where they are trying to replace Manny Ramirez, isn't immediately clear. In fact, it wasn't entirely clear that Podsednik would have been the everyday guy there if he had stayed with the club. Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said he will explore the possibility of signing a free-agent left fielder or trading for one, but Colletti also said there might be options within the organization.
"[The search] continues," Colletti said. "It might be a combination of Xavier Paul and [Trent] Oeltjen. Jay Gibbons can get some time there. Russ Mitchell could get time there. As of right now, it is what it is, but we have a long winter ahead of us."
Paul is a longtime Dodgers prospect with only sporadic big league experience, and Oeltjen is a journeyman minor leaguer who finished the season with the Dodgers. Both remain under club control as long as they are on the 40-man roster. Gibbons is a major league veteran who returned to the majors for the first time in three years when the Dodgers promoted him from Triple-A Albuquerque in early August. He is a free agent, but he also is a Southern California resident who has expressed a desire to remain with the Dodgers.
Mitchell is a rookie who made his major league debut when the Dodgers called him up for the September roster expansion.
Asked if he would prefer to have a major league veteran who could play left field on an everyday basis -- someone like Podsednik -- Colletti said not necessarily.
"I think the best combination, whether it's one or whether it's two or three, is what we want," Colletti said.
The Dodgers also could re-sign Podsednik, but assuming there is a market for his services, it probably will cost them considerably more than the $2 million they would have paid him if he had exercised the option. But Podsednik's numbers after the Dodgers acquired him from the Kansas City Royals on July 28 were less than spectacular. Hitting mostly in the leadoff spot, he hit just .262 with a paltry .313 on-base percentage for the Dodgers, and although his speed was one of the reasons the Dodgers wanted him, he stole only five bases in eight attempts in the 39 games he played for them.
Podsednik didn't play after Sept. 9 because of plantar fasciitis.
At the time the Dodgers acquired him, Podsednik's option was still a club option. But a clause in the contract -- which without the option was a one-year, $1.65 million deal -- made the option mutual if Podsednik reached 525 plate appearances for the season, which he did shortly after the trade.
The Dodgers would have owed Podsednik a $100,000 buyout of the option if they had declined it. But because they exercised and Podsednik declined, the buyout no longer applies.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.