Catcher Navarro set to return to Dodgers

Catcher Navarro set to return to Dodgers

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Dodgers are close to signing another free-agent catcher and again it's not Russell Martin.

Former All Star and former Dodger Dioner Navarro has agreed to terms to compete with A.J. Ellis as backup to starting catcher Rod Barajas, according to multiple baseball sources, pending passing a physical exam.

Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti, confirming that he's close to adding another catcher but declining to name him, said he met Tuesday night with Martin's agent, Matt Colleran. He again expressed frustration with the course of the negotiations.

"It's been difficult to come to terms in a lot of ways," Colletti said, Martin having rejected the Dodgers' offer of $4.2 million guaranteed with $1.5 million in incentives before being non-tendered last week. "I don't want to guess what they're thinking, where their heart is or what the financial goal is.

"I told him we're going to keep doing business. We still have interest [in] bringing him back, but at some point in time there will be no chairs left."

Having said that, Colletti didn't rule out Martin's return, most likely as the primary left fielder, which Colletti said he's still looking for.

When last a Dodger, Martin asked for the same salary he received in 2010 ($5.05 million), even though his offensive production declined in recent years and he is still recovering from a broken hip suffered in August. He won't start running until later this month or baseball activities until next month.

"If everybody [at catcher] plays really well and stays healthy, it will be tough to find a lot of games [for Martin] behind the plate," said Colletti.

But Colletti said he is still looking for that starting left fielder, even after coming to terms with Tony Gwynn on a one-year, $675,000 deal. Martin apparently is still a candidate there, as well as the infield.

The Dodgers also have inquired about free-agent outfielder Bill Hall, among others, and Colletti listed Xavier Paul as an internal candidate. He is out of options.

"We still need one outfielder that can play a lot of games, in my mind," Colletti said. "[Gwynn] is really a fourth or fifth outfielder, depending on who the other one is. He could be part-time or full-time. We felt we needed to upgrade the outfield defensively and if you look at the analytics of it, you'll see what we're talking about. At least defense and speed he makes a difference."

As the Dodgers did with Martin, Navarro was non-tendered by Tampa Bay last week. The 26-year-old switch-hitter came to the Dodgers from the Yankees in the 2005 three-team trade that sent Shawn Green to Arizona and Randy Johnson to New York.

Navarro opened his rookie season as the Dodgers' starting catcher, but injured his wrist and quickly lost his job to Martin. Halfway through that season, Navarro was traded with Jae Seo to Tampa Bay for Toby Hall and Mark Hendrickson.

Navarro became the starting catcher in Tampa Bay and was an All-Star in 2008 with a career-high .295 average and 54 RBIs, but sagged to .218 in 2009 and fell completely out of favor in 2010, losing playing time to John Jaso and Kelly Shoppach. After playing in 119, 120 and 115 games in 2007-09, Navarro played in only 48 games this year, batting .194 with seven RBIs.

Told he would not be on Tampa Bay's postseason roster for the first round of the playoffs, he left the club and went home, assuring his non-tender. He was in the second year of a two-year, $4.2 million contract.

Now Navarro becomes a low-risk potential long-term replacement to Martin. The short-term replacement is Barajas, signed to a $3.25 million deal as the starting catcher, presumably to team with Ellis, who now must compete with Navarro to stay in the Major Leagues.

Navarro would be the Dodgers' eighth free-agent signing this offseason, joining Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda, Jon Garland, Juan Uribe, Vicente Padilla, Gwynn and Jay Gibbons.

Colletti said he's still looking for a relief pitcher, not necessarily a lefty.

In other Dodgers news, assistant general manager of scouting Logan White announced these changes: Manny Estrada was promoted to international coordinator; Paul Fryer has become global cross-checker; John Green is national cross-checker; Brian Stephenson is West Coast supervisor; and Gary Nichols is East Coast supervisor.

And in former Dodgers news, agent Scott Boras confirmed that free agent Manny Ramirez underwent surgery for a sports hernia he supposedly suffered early in the season, although Boras said Ramirez was unaware of the injury until tests were done after the season.

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