Dodgers add Perez, Wright, Howell to formidable 'pen
Uribe's contract finalized as GM Colletti finishes up bulk of offseason work
LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said he's "pretty much done" with roster moves after finalizing the contracts of free agents Juan Uribe, Chris Perez, J.P. Howell and Jamey Wright on Tuesday.
Colletti said he might look for a utility infielder, but then deflected a question about interest in starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, who might be posted by his Japanese club and would give the Dodgers a seventh expensive starting pitcher.
"I'm not discussing that yet," Colletti said. "We'll see if he gets posted and go from there."
Colletti said he also still believes Matt Kemp will be ready for Opening Day, now that Kemp has the protective boot removed from his broken ankle. Kemp also is able to do upper-body weight work, which he was prevented from doing last winter because of serious shoulder surgery.
Uribe returns to be the starter at third base on a two-year, $15 million contract agreed to 10 days ago. The other three restock a bullpen that Colletti said "has the potential" to become the best of his tenure.
Perez joins Brian Wilson and Brandon League to give the Dodgers three former All-Star closers, with a combined 377 saves, as a bridge (and fallback) to young closer Kenley Jansen.
"We have four guys who have pitched the ninth inning as the primary closer for their club," said Colletti. "You never get through a season without a strong bullpen, especially in our league, especially in our division."
With a two-year contract and a vesting option, Howell rejoins fellow left-hander Paco Rodriguez. Wright returns to the dual duty of long reliever and role model after the Dodgers let him get away to Tampa Bay for a year. Colletti said Wright as a Dodger in 2012 was a positive influence on League, his teammate on two other clubs earlier. Chris Withrow also will compete to retain his middle-relief job.
Colletti said his motivation for loading up on experienced relievers was further fueled by the frequency with which Jansen, Ronald Belisario and Rodriguez were used in high-leverage pressure situations in 2013.
"We had three of the top nine in the league [in appearances]," Colletti said. "We need to be more cognizant of that and spread it out more. They had 140 of those appearances between them."
Of the signings, the most controversial is Perez, a two-time All-Star and Cleveland's closer last season. He had 25 saves, his fourth consecutive season with at least 23 saves. But his year deteriorated on and off the field.
In June, Perez and his wife were arrested for possession of marijuana, for which he pled no contest, was fined $250 and was placed on one year probation. Perez entered MLB's drug treatment program and has undergone regular drug tests. Over the final two months, his ERA shot from 2.41 to 4.33.
With that backdrop, the Indians released him Oct. 31. Nonetheless, he's considered by the Dodgers an upgrade from another right-hander with baggage, Belisario, who was non-tendered because the club believed a better alternative could be acquired from a deep free-agent market for right-handed relievers.
Colletti said he met with Perez during the Winter Meetings and said he had "no qualms about bringing him in here."
"It's an opportunity for him to re-establish himself in a high-profile, big market with high expectations and he's looking forward to do that," said Colletti. "He fessed up to his transgressions, was remorseful and contrite with how he dealt with it and wants to make amends for it."
Perez, 28, was a first-round Draft pick by the Cardinals in 2006 out of the University of Miami who earned $7.3 million last year and would have been eligible for arbitration if not released. His Dodgers salary has a $2.3 million base with significant incentives potential.
Howell, 30, was a durable and reliable complement to Rodriguez this year after signing late in the offseason when the Dodgers realized that Scott Elbert wouldn't be healthy in time.
With the free-agent market thin on left-handers, Howell was in position to leverage a two-year, $11.25 million deal plus a vesting option after earning $3.5 million in salary and bonuses while going 4-1 with a career-best 2.03 ERA. Boone Logan's three-year, $16.5 million deal with Colorado prompted the settlement. Lefties hit only .164 off Howell and he pitched multiple innings six times.
Wright, 39, went 5-3 with a 3.72 ERA in 66 appearances for the Dodgers in 2012. But they didn't bring him back in 2013, when he signed another Minor League contract and had an even better season for Tampa Bay (2-2, 3.09, 66 appearances). He also reached the postseason for the first time in an 18-year career.
"A lot of times this year I looked up and wished I had been more aggressive bringing him back last year," Colletti said.