Gwynn awaits fate as tender deadline nears
Loney expected to be tendered a contract, Kuo likely non-tendered
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers are still expected to tender a contract on Monday to first baseman James Loney despite his brush with the law last month, but the futures of reliever Hong-Chih Kuo and outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. with the club are less certain.
Kuo is almost certain to be non-tendered, coming off a fifth elbow operation and a season in which he was sidelined with anxiety disorder. He could then be re-signed at a salary cut of more than 20 percent from the $2.725 million he made in 2011. The Dodgers have two other arbitration eligibles, Andre Ethier and Clayton Kershaw, that are certain to be tendered contracts.
The decision on Gwynn, however, could go down to the midnight (ET) deadline on Monday. He was non-tendered a year ago by San Diego, and then reaped the Dodgers a nice return for a modest $675,000 contract. He played in a career-high 136 games, hitting .256 -- a 52-point improvement from the year prior. He stole 22 bases, delivered clutch pinch-hits and, most importantly for a fourth outfielder, played nearly flawless defense.
Although Matt Kemp plays just about every inning of every game, the Dodgers need someone on the roster that can take over center field if Kemp gets hurt. Gwynn is better equipped for that than newly signed utility man Jerry Hairston Jr.
Gwynn wants a raise in 2012 while the bankrupt Dodgers are looking to save anywhere they can. Thus, the two sides are locked in a game of financial chicken leading up to the tender deadline.
Gwynn, in a text message, said he wasn't sure how it will play out.
Players that are not tendered a contract become free agents. A year ago, the Dodgers cut catcher Russell Martin loose at the deadline because they knew that Rod Barajas was available for less money. The two finished the 2011 season with similar stats.
Similarly, there are three free-agent outfielders who compare favorably with Gwynn in skills and salary that offer alternatives to the popular son of the Hall of Famer.
Rick Ankiel, 32, hit .239 with nine homers and 37 RBIs for Washington, mostly playing center field. He earned $1.5 million. Corey Patterson, 32, hit .239 with six homers and 36 RBIs for Toronto and St. Louis, earning $900,000. And Endy Chavez, 33, hit .301 with five homers and 27 RBIs for Texas -- mostly playing center field -- earning $1 million.
Coco Crisp, 32, would be a great fit, but he's coming off a salary of $5.75 million, which is way out of the Dodgers' budget. He was the A's switch-hitting center fielder, batting .264 with eight homers, 54 RBIs, 69 runs and a league-leading 49 steals.
There are other players that have the Dodgers' interest, like Hideki Matsui, but defensive limitations make him less attractive, especially in the National League.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.