Dodgers continue talks with Garciaparra

Dodgers continue talks with Garciaparra

LOS ANGELES -- While meeting for the second day with free agent Nomar Garciaparra, the Dodgers on Friday also turned their attention toward yet another free agent, center fielder Kenny Lofton.

The second day of Dodger Stadium meetings with Garciaparra further fueled speculation that the one-time Fenway Park hero would accept the Dodgers' offer to be their No. 5 hitter, in part because of the hometown connection (with a Boston flavor) and in part because of a willingness to overpay for short-term contracts.

Garciaparra and agent Arn Tellem met with Dodgers officials Thursday. On Friday, Garciaparra was accompanied by soccer star wife Mia Hamm (they live in Manhattan Beach). In addition to the Dodgers, Garciaparra is being pursued by the New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves.

Having already added Rafael Furcal at shortstop and Bill Mueller at third base, the Dodgers would put Garciaparra at first base, with the understanding that he might see time in left field. But they are intensively pursuing the five-time All-Star for his bat, not his glove. The most critical current need, in the view of new general manager Ned Colletti, is a fifth hitter to bat behind Jeff Kent. Garciaparra is the best available candidate.

"The batting order itself could use some shoring up," said Colletti, who is considering Reggie Sanders as a possible alternative. "We need to find a player to hit in the middle of the lineup. I believe [Garciaparra] would."

Garciaparra would come at some risk, having been limited to 81 games in 2004 and 62 in 2005 because of Achilles tendon and groin muscle injuries, respectively, after playing in only 21 games in 2001 because of a wrist injury. But he's also won batting titles in 1999 and 2000 and driven in more than 95 runs in six different seasons.

Garciaparra has made three postseason appearances with the Red Sox and was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1997, when he won the Silver Slugger Award as the best-hitting shortstop in a league that included Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter. He was traded to the Chicago Cubs on July 31, 2004, missing out on Boston's world championship three months later.

Garciaparra would be reunited with new Dodgers manager Grady Little, his Boston manager in 2002 and 2003. He might also contribute to a bottleneck of infielders if and when Cesar Izturis returns from major elbow surgery, estimated around midseason, so the outfield is a possibility.

"He told me his thoughts, I told him my thoughts, and I don't think our thoughts are that far off," Colletti said about Garciaparra's defensive positioning. "He was amenable to doing whatever we needed him to do. He just wants to know, as any player would, how to prepare."

Colletti sidestepped addressing the potential crowded infield.

"We've got a lot of what-ifs. Let's see what happens with Nomar and take it from there," he said. "As circumstances are presented and the season is under way and people recover from injury, we'll make decisions as we have to make them. It's all premature."

Colletti said he was not told by Garciaparra when he would pick a team, but Colletti said the Dodgers are continuing to pursue other players regardless, and Lofton is known to be one.

Lofton would be reunited with Colletti, having played briefly in 2002 for the San Francisco Giants when Colletti was assistant general manager there.

If Colletti adds Garciaparra and Lofton to his earlier acquisitions of Furcal, Mueller and backup catcher Sandy Alomar Jr., he will have filled each glaring position-player hole with a veteran possessing postseason experience, without committing to a contract longer than three years and without trading one of the Dodgers' top Minor League prospects. He then could focus on acquiring a starting pitcher to replace Jeff Weaver.

The 38-year-old Lofton is a 14-year veteran with a .299 career batting average. He played 110 games, hit .335 and stole 22 bases for the Phillies in 2005. A six-time All-Star, Lofton has four Gold Gloves and five stolen-base titles. His 567 steals make him the active career leader and 23rd overall in baseball history. He has nine postseason appearances.

Lofton is also being courted by the Baltimore Orioles and the Arizona Diamondbacks. He spent Friday meeting with Diamondbacks officials in Phoenix. He attended the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.