Dodgers, Tony Gwynn Jr. finalize deal

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers finalized their one-year, $675,000 agreement with free-agent outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. after Gwynn passed a physical exam Saturday, but the search for another everyday outfielder continues.

That search has narrowed to four players, according to a source who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Two of those players are veterans Scott Podsednik, who spent the final two months of the 2010 season with the Dodgers before declining a $2 million mutual option, and Bill Hall, who became a free agent when the Boston Red Sox declined his $9.25 million club option after the season.

Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said as he was leaving baseball's winter meetings Thursday that there was no real urgency to find that player and that the search could extend into spring training, possibly even into the season. Colletti did say he prefers that player to be a right-handed hitter, which presumably would make Hall more attractive than Podsednik.

Hall, who turns 31 later this month, also is more versatile than Podsednik, a quality that will be hugely important on a 2011 team for which only four positions -- first base, shortstop, center field and right field -- have a clear-cut, everyday starter.

Hall has logged at least 24 games in his nine-year career at each of six positions -- everywhere but catcher and first base.
Podsednik, however, is limited primarily to left and center.

It isn't immediately clear who the other two outfielders on the Dodgers' list are, and the list of free-agent outfielders who still are unsigned remains long.

As for Gwynn, 28, he at least will begin the season as the Dodgers' fourth outfielder. He hit just .204 for the San Diego Padres last season, meaning the defensive specialist who can play all three outfield spots isn't really a viable option for an everyday starting job.

"If his bat comes around, he could find himself playing quite a bit,'' Colletti said. "It's going to depend on how he hits. He is going to play a lot, at least in a defensive role late in games and to give a guy a break here and there, and we think he is capable of taking over as a full-time player."

Gwynn also has above-average base-stealing ability, which could make him a solid option as a pinch runner in critical, late-inning situations.

Gwynn, whose father famously won eight batting titles for the Padres and is widely considered one of the greatest pure hitters in the history of the game, becomes one of several second-generation ballplayers in the Dodgers' organization.

Gwynn and infield prospect Ivan De Jesus Jr. are the only ones presently on the 40-man roster, but the team's minor league system is dotted with such players, including outfielder Scott Van Slyke; shortstop Dee Gordon; catcher Matt Wallach; outfielder Brian Cavazos-Galvez; outfielder James Baldwin; and pitcher Joel Lima.

"Those guys may understand the game a little more because they have grown up in it," Colletti said. "That doesn't make them an automatic, but it just means that they may see the game in a deeper way than some other folks."

The Gwynn signing leaves the Dodgers with 39 players on their 40-man roster, with catcher Dioner Navarro expected to take the final spot after he passes a physical and his one-year contract with the club is finalized.

That means if the Dodgers do sign a left fielder or a reliever -- both of which Colletti has said he would like to add this winter, if possible -- someone will have to be pushed aside.

The most likely candidate probably is first baseman John Lindsey, the Dodgers' feel-good story of an otherwise feel-bad 2010 season who finally got his first big league callup in September after 16 years in the minors.

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.