The Los Angeles Dodgers continued to address their offseason needs at a frenetic pace on Tuesday, finalizing the signing of free-agent infielder Juan Uribe to a three-year, $21 million contract and acquiring right-handed reliever Blake Hawksworth from the St. Louis Cardinals for suddenly expendable second baseman Ryan Theriot, while the odds continued to diminish that two-time All-Star catcher Russell Martin would remain with the club.
The deadline for teams to tender offers to their arbitration-eligible players is 9 p.m. PST on Thursday. Unless Martin agrees to a contract that would pay him far less than the $5.05 million the Dodgers paid him in 2010, the Dodgers are almost certain not to tender him, which would make Martin a free agent.
"All I know is that we have had many conversations,'' said Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti, who declined to elaborate.
The Dodgers clearly aren't going to go through the arbitration process with Martin, whose offensive numbers have dropped off each of the past three seasons and who missed the final two months of 2010 with a hip injury, because that would result in him receiving a sizable raise. But while the Dodgers are keeping tabs on almost all of the numerous free-agent catchers who still are available, they don't have an obvious replacement for Martin.
There is a remote chance that the clock will run out on Martin before Thursday's deadline, because if the Dodgers reach an agreement with another primary catcher before that deadline, they no longer will need Martin. The Dodgers also could still sign Martin even after the deadline passes, but the passing of the deadline would leave him free to sign elsewhere.
The Dodgers also continue to look for a left fielder, but the catching situation appears to be their top priority at the moment because of the looming deadline. Colletti said he also hopes to add more arms to the bullpen. He began that process by acquiring Hawksworth for Theriot, another arbitration-eligible player the Dodgers clearly would have non-tendered on Thursday because he made $2.6 million last year and hit just .242 with six extra-base hits after the Dodgers acquired him from the Chicago Cubs on July 31.
But instead of getting nothing for Theriot, the Dodgers got Hawksworth, who also could be a swingman if one of the club's starting pitchers suffers an injury.
"We felt this was a really good fit for us," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said. "This is not necessarily the last move we're going to make between now and Opening Day, but if we did have to start today he would likely be our shortstop."
Music to Theriot's ears.
"I think every player as a competitor should go in there with that mindset," Theriot said in a conference call. "I don't want to be that utility player, I want to be out there playing. I can't help a team if I'm sitting on the bench."
The Cardinals completed another deal, too, signing free-agent pitcher Brian Tallet. Theriot and Tallet were teammates on the 2000 LSU team that won the NCAA title.
Hawksworth, who will turn 28 in spring training, is coming off his first full season in the majors. He is a virtual lock to be part of the Dodgers' bullpen in 2011 because he is out of minor league options, and he likely will be a fixture there for years to come because he isn't arbitration-eligible until after the 2012 season.
"His versatility was appealing to us," Colletti said. "He can start. He can pitch more than one inning [out of the bullpen]. He can be reliable as a short man or a long man. He was outstanding in 2009, and then he slipped a little bit, but we think we can get him back to where he was."
While splitting time between the majors and Triple-A Memphis, Hawksworth had an outstanding rookie season in 2009, posting a 2.03 ERA in 30 relief appearances for the Cardinals while giving up just 29 hits in 40 innings. But his ERA ballooned in 2010 to 4.98, partly because he struggled so mightily in his eight starts (5.83 ERA), and partly because, overall, he gave up 113 hits in 90 innings.
Hawksworth made just $402,000 in 2010 and, as a so-called "zero-to-three" player, will receive only a nominal raise in 2011.
Uribe, 31, hit just .248 for the San Francisco Giants in 2010, but with career highs of 24 home runs and 85 RBIs, he became a key player in the Giants' march to the World Series title. Uribe will be the Dodgers' primary second baseman, but his ability to play third and shortstop will allow manager Don Mattingly to rest aging and sometimes-fragile veterans Casey Blake and Rafael Furcal whenever he chooses, with utility man Jamey Carroll there to play second base whenever Uribe plays elsewhere.
"I have nothing bad to say about the Giants," Uribe said through a translator during a conference call. "I was very happy with how the fans treated me and how the Giants treated me. As far as leaving, I have no control over the teams I play for."
Because Uribe can hit for power at a position where power is rare, Colletti's search for a left fielder can now be expanded to include talented defensive outfielders who might not be power hitters. One of Colletti's stated goals at the beginning of the offseason, after the Dodgers went 80-82 largely because of their punchless offense, was a power hitter who could drive in runs from the middle of the order.
"This is a [power] bat," Colletti said. "Is it the bat? We'll find out if it's the bat. But it is a bat that can provide a lot of offense for us. I can't predict what we're going to do behind the plate or in left field."
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.