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Dodgers and GM Ned Colletti reach agreement on contract extension

The Dodgers have made the playoffs in three of the four seasons Colletti has been general manager.

October 21, 2009|Dylan Hernandez

PHILADELPHIA — Ned Colletti signed a multiyear contract extension Tuesday to remain the general manager of the Dodgers -- for how many years, no one would say.

"I'll be here for a long time and I might be here for longer than a long time," was how Colletti described the deal, about which he and the club offered no specific details. A Dodgers news release announcing the deal referred to the agreement as "a long-term contract extension."

President Dennis Mannion said the secrecy could prevent potentially disruptive speculation about Colletti's future.

"Once you start naming terms, you're creating an organizational distraction that starts two years outside of the end of the guy's deal and continues on," Mannion said. "We agreed to agree to keep it secret."

Colletti's original deal with the Dodgers was guaranteed for four years and included a mutual option for 2010.

Colletti's low-budget moves at the last two trade deadlines were cited as major reasons behind the Dodgers' back-to-back division titles. With owner Frank McCourt becoming increasingly cost-conscious -- payroll dropped from the $120 million last year to $90 million this year -- Colletti managed to acquire Manny Ramirez, Casey Blake, Greg Maddux, Vicente Padilla, George Sherrill and Ronnie Belliard at almost no financial cost to the Dodgers.

About the only reason there was any doubt this deal would get done was the news that emerged last week that McCourt and his wife, the club's chief executive, Jamie McCourt, were separated.

But even in the days he was under fire for his high-priced free-agent signings of Jason Schmidt ($47 million), Juan Pierre ($44 million) and Andruw Jones ($36 million), Colletti said he never wondered about the future.

"I'm not one to look too far into the future," he said. "I can tell you I was never worried if I would be here or not. I would be someplace. I was never worried about that. Other people speculating, that's part of the business. If I lose sleep, it's not because I cheated the day or because I was worried if I would have a position in major league baseball."

Colletti blamed some of his early mistakes on having inherited a club that went 71-91 in 2005.

"In an effort to turn that around as soon as possible, we made some moves that in hindsight you wouldn't do twice," he said. "But in the last year or so, our deliberation and our thought process were keener, were more fine-tuned, were less impatient."

Colletti oversaw the extended negotiations to re-sign Ramirez this year. When the free-agent markets for Randy Wolf and Orlando Hudson collapsed last winter, Colletti made late moves to add them to the roster at bargain prices.

Mannion said the decision to offer Colletti a multiyear extension was an easy one and that conversations about a new deal started even before the team reported to camp.

Colletti, whose first four years were marked by his refusal to part with young talent such as Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, said that among the goals in the next phase of his tenure would be to improve the Dodgers' international scouting.

The Dodgers' influence in Latin America has waned in recent years because they have refused to enter bidding wars for top prospects, but Mannion said the club would increase its financial commitment to investing in players from that part of the world.

Colletti said that he would consider signing some of the team's arbitration-eligible players to long-term contracts on a "case-by-case basis" -- Kemp and Ethier are among the players who fall in this group -- but warned, "It's going to have to be a deal that makes sense on both ends."

Colletti said he didn't expect the uncertain status of the McCourts' marriage to affect the way the Dodgers conduct business.

On Tuesday, with the Dodgers only a day removed from a crushing Game 4 defeat and day away from an elimination game, Colletti acknowledged that the announcement of his contract extension came at an interesting time.

But the former sportswriter and public relations officer made light of situation.

Asked about the roughest time of his tenure, he replied, "Besides last night?"

That drew laughs, as did his response when he was asked about the emotions he felt watching the game the previous night.

Turning to special assistants Bill Mueller and Vance Lovelace, he asked, "Billy, Vance, was I emotional last night?"

--

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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