LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- In a development that probably eliminates any chance two-time All-Star and former Gold Glove catcher Russell Martin will remain with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the club is close to a one-year agreement with the catcher Martin replaced more than four years ago, free agent Dioner Navarro, according to a source with knowledge of the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Navarro, who will turn 27 before spring training, will share time behind the plate with Rod Barajas, with Barajas probably getting about 60 percent of the starts, the source said. The move also means A.J. Ellis is almost certainly destined to once again begin the season at Triple-A Albuquerque.
Navarro became the Dodgers' primary catcher after he was called up from the minors midway through the 2005 season. The club had acquired him from the New York Yankees the previous winter in a three-team trade that resulted in Randy Johnson going from the Arizona Diamondbacks to the Yankees.
But Navarro got off to a slow start with the Dodgers in 2006, resulting first in the highly touted Martin being called to the majors for the first time and eventually in Navarro being traded to Tampa Bay in a four-player deal that summer. Navarro then spent 4½ seasons with the Rays, helping them reach the World Series in 2008.
A defensive specialist with a reputation for being a good handler of pitching staffs, Navarro hit just .194 with one homer and seven RBIs with the Rays in 2010, resulting in him losing the starting job, and he actually spent several weeks at Triple-A Durham before returning to the majors for the September roster expansion.
The Dodgers non-tendered Martin last week when the sides couldn't reach agreement on a contract to avoid arbitration. Martin, who made $5.05 million in 2010, saw his offensive numbers slip for a third consecutive season and missed the final two months with a hip injury he still is rehabilitating. He wanted a $5 million guarantee, a price the Dodgers weren't willing to make, and Martin probably would have gotten $5.5 million to $6 million if he had taken the Dodgers to arbitration.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.