One of the Dodgers' biggest offseason questions revolves around the future of incumbent second baseman Jeff Kent, who hasn't publicly said whether he would be back in 2008 at age 40, or if he'd retire and become a full-time husband and father.
According to talk show host Larry King, Kent's mind is made up, and he'll be back in Dodgers Blue for a fourth season.
"I spoke to Jeff Kent on the phone yesterday, and Jeff's really enthused," King said on Saturday at his 2007 King of Hearts Awards Gala, a black-tie affair in the Beverly Hilton Hotel's International Ballroom. "There was a question if he was going to play out the last year of his contract -- no doubt about it."
Kent signed a one-year contract extension in March 2006 that automatically vested a $9 million option when he reached 550 plate appearances in '07. Kent would be the graybeard in the middle of a youth movement, coming off a season in which he still was the most potent bat in the lineup, hitting .302 with a team-high 20 homers and 79 RBIs.
Neither Kent's agent nor the club has released any news regarding Kent's return in 2008. But at last week's introduction of Joe Torre as Dodgers manager, GM Ned Colletti said he was "pretty sure [Kent is] coming back."
A 16-year veteran without a World Series ring, Kent is passionate about winning a championship before he retires. He was outspoken about his frustrations with the 2007 season and was in the middle of the Dodgers' late-season breakdown, having spoken out after the Dodgers were swept in Colorado in September and fell out of contention. Kent's comments that the Dodgers' young players "don't get it" drew national attention and angered club officials.
The clubhouse fracture between kids and veterans involved many more Dodgers than Kent, and the fallout from the disappointing finish ultimately led to manager Grady Little's resignation and Torre's hiring.
King said at the gala, which honored Dodgers owners Frank and Jamie McCourt and their work with the Dodgers Dream Foundation and Think Cure, the club's official charity, that Kent's eager to play for Torre, his third manager in four seasons in Los Angeles.
"He's looking forward to playing for Joe Torre," King said. "The community will be very happy with Joe Torre."
The five-time All-Star and 2000 National League Most Valuable Player ranks first all-time among second basemen in homers.
Ben Platt is a national correspondent and Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.