The Dodgers are close to reacquiring former All-Star Dioner Navarro to compete with catchers Rod Barajas and A.J. Ellis, according to a baseball source, a further indication that Russell Martin won't be returning.
As the Dodgers did with Martin, Navarro was non-tendered by the Rays 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 he injured his wrist and quickly lost his job to Martin. Halfway through that season, Navarro was trade 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 he sagged to .218 in '09 and fell completely out of favor in '10, losing playing time to John Jaso and Kelly Shoppach. After playing in 119, 120 and 115 games from 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.
For the Dodgers, however, Navarro becomes a low-risk potential long-term replacement to Martin, who was non-tendered last week when he turned down a $4.2 million contract, even though he is still recovering from a broken hip suffered in August and hasn't yet run or done baseball activities.
The Dodgers immediately replaced Martin by re-signing Barajas to a $3.25 million deal as the starting catcher, presumably to team with Ellis. Now it must be assumed that Navarro will not only compete for the backup job, but vie for the starting job as well during Spring Training.
General manager Ned Colletti said on Tuesday that he wanted a third catcher.
"You always need to have more than two," he said. "You're always one foul tip away from having one. You're better to go with more than less."
Navarro would be the Dodgers' eighth free-agent signing this offseason, joining Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda, Jon Garland, Juan Uribe, Vicente Padilla, Tony Gwynn and Jay Gibbons.
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