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Saito signs with Red Sox, solidifying Broxton's role as Dodgers closer

Veteran Japanese reliever, who saved 81 games the last three seasons for L.A., heads to Boston following a summer on the disabled list with an elbow injury.

January 11, 2009|Dylan Hernandez

Takashi Saito's decision to part ways with the Dodgers wasn't made by Saito, the former All-Star closer's agent said on the day he signed a one-year contract with the Boston Red Sox.

"Basically, it was the Dodgers' decision," Nez Balelo, who represents Saito, said Saturday. "The Dodgers didn't reach out to me to me at all."

Kim Ng, Dodgers assistant general manager, was surprised when relayed Balelo's comments.

"That's an interesting characterization because we talked on Tuesday," Ng said. "Our impression was that we were going to get a chance to make a last offer."

Ng said the Dodgers never got that chance and received a phone call from Balelo on Friday night informing them that Saito would sign elsewhere.

Balelo acknowledged that the Dodgers requested a right of final refusal but said it was never granted.

Saito can earn as much as $7.5 million this season, according to a baseball source who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the matter. Saito is guaranteed $1.5 million and will receive a $1-million bonus if he's on the active roster at any time this season. He can earn an additional $5 million in incentives based on time spent on the active roster and games pitched.

The Dodgers were offering Saito a one-year deal with a $2-million base salary and $200,000 in incentives in the days leading up to the Dec. 12 deadline to tender contracts to players under club control, according to sources.

Saito rejected the proposal and the Dodgers made him a free agent. Tendering him a contract could have led to an arbitration hearing that would have almost certainly earned him a substantial raise from his $2-million salary last season. Saito saved 81 games in three seasons with the Dodgers and was an All-Star in 2007 but was sidelined for two months last season because of a partially torn elbow ligament and turns 39 in February.

General Manager Ned Colletti was gracious when asked about Saito on Saturday, recalling how the pitcher from Japan, who was signed to a minor league contract before the 2006 season, became one of baseball's top closers.

"We are sorry he chose to go elsewhere," Colletti said. "Still, we wish him well."

Saito's departure, coupled with a failed bid to sign all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman, leaves 24-year-old Jonathan Broxton as the Dodgers' closer for the upcoming season.

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dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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