Kent's contract extended through '07

Kent's contract extended through '07

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- The new direction of the Dodgers received its strongest endorsement yet Wednesday, when All-Star second baseman Jeff Kent signed a contract extension for 2007 with an option for 2008.

Kent, who earns $9.4 million this year, the last of a two-year contract, will receive a base salary of $9 million in 2007 with a $2 million signing bonus and plate-appearance incentives that could reach $750,000.

His 2008 salary vests at $9 million if he has 550 plate appearances in 2007, and the Dodgers hold an option at $7 million with a buyout of $500,000. With the plate-appearance escalators and buyout, the deal could max out at $22.35 million for the two seasons or be worth a minimum of $11.5 million for one season.

"I'm very comfortable with what we have here," said Kent. "They bring in Ned [Colletti, general manager] and Grady [Little, manager], that proves to me that these guys have what it takes to win. The longer I stay here increases my chances of being part of a winning organization."

Kent said he made his decision Tuesday night after a conference call that included team chairman Frank McCourt.

"His integrity, his passion, his desire to rejuvenate the organization and put it on the map as a perennial winner," Kent said, offering his view of McCourt.

Kent, who will be 40 at the end of the 2008 season, said he was "99.9 percent" sure this would be his last contract.

"It's safe to say I'll be proud to retire as a Dodger," he said.

Colletti said talks on the extension began five weeks ago. Colletti elaborated when asked if the discussion included an eventual move to first base.

"It was discussed to be open-minded," Colletti said. "It's crystal clear that whatever is best for the Dodgers, he's going to do. He's more worried about winning than where he's playing. That said, there are no plans to move him."

Colletti then explained the reasoning behind the extension.

"I watched him come to San Francisco a good player and leave a great player," said Colletti, who was with Kent in San Francisco as assistant general manager.

"He has Hall of Fame credentials. Over the last 10 years, he plays hard, he plays hurt. I believe he's one of the best players on any club in the middle of the lineup. Those players are tough to find. He's a clutch hitter and you can depend on him. When people talk about Hall of Fame, his name comes up."

The five-time All Star is coming off a season in which he had to carry the Dodger offense. He did so, hitting .289 with 29 home runs, 105 RBIs and 100 runs scored. He underwent surgery in January to repair a partial ligament tear in his right wrist that held him out of early Spring Training games.

Kent met with club ownership after last season ended to voice his concern over the direction of the franchise. Within days, general manager Paul DePodesta was dismissed, although Kent and the club insist one had nothing to do with the other. A month later, Colletti was hired.

Kent said he respected former manager Jim Tracy for "keeping things together with duct tape" last year.

"But I really like Grady, the way he goes about his business, and I like the things I've learned about him from other people," he said.

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