General manager Ned Colletti held an all-encompassing organizational meeting with 101 members of baseball operations over the weekend in preparation for next week's general managers meeting in Dana Point, Calif. He's got 14 potential free agents with whom to negotiate or replace, the biggest of them being outfielder Manny Ramirez, with the 15-day free-agent filing period beginning Thursday.
Colletti has traded voicemails with Ramirez's agent, Scott Boras, but they haven't met and he hasn't made an offer. Colletti indicated he will, but he shied away from discussing whether he anticipates, as has been speculated, that the club will offer a shorter term (probably three years) than Ramirez has hinted he's seeking (five or six).
"I'm sure we'll get involved with that at some point," said Colletti.
Colletti acknowledges Ramirez's production -- runs, ticket sales, stadium electricity -- and he doesn't question any of it. But he said there is more to his responsibility than just re-signing Ramirez.
"We need a good club and a team that can win," Colletti said. "If we're able to sign Manny and finish 20 games under .500, that won't be met with a positive reaction."
But Ramirez dictates the timing of free agency, not the Dodgers, and Colletti said he can't allow one player's situation to dictate his attempts to fill the other holes. With Ramirez's situation out of his control, Colletti said his top priority is to clarify his infield. He's opened negotiations to retain free-agent shortstop Rafael Furcal, has spoken with the agent for free-agent third baseman Casey Blake and plans to have Blake DeWitt work this winter on infield skills, but whether it's at second base or third base depends on which position Colletti can fill through a trade or free-agent signing.
He agreed that three seasons of watching Russell Martin fade in the second half has him convinced that Martin needs to catch less and possibly play third base more, but stopped short of saying the club will move Martin to there permanently because there is no clear replacement for Martin behind the plate. Martin's future position could depend on whatever acquisition the Dodgers make.
As usual, Colletti mentioned starting pitching as the "toughest talent to find" and an off-season area of concern, especially with the possible free-agent departure of Derek Lowe and Brad Penny, Opening Day starters for the last four seasons. He said he hasn't spoken to Boras yet about Lowe, either.
Colletti cited tampering when refusing to discuss his interest in trading for Padres pitcher Jake Peavy, who is on the market and has listed the Dodgers as one team for which he'd waive his no-trade provision. But Colletti said acquiring a No. 1 starter via trade would cost the Dodgers "multiple big league players, and signing one testing free agency also costs in different ways," the latter comment no doubt referring to the $120 million-plus price tag of free agent CC Sabathia.
Colletti remained vague on the club's most glaring albatross, center fielder Andruw Jones, who indicated to teammates he did not want to return, even though there's $21 million remaining on his contract and he's coming off one of the toughest seasons in recent history. Colletti said Jones is working out and trying to shed weight. A trade would seem to be virtually impossible.
With the uncertainty of Ramirez and Jones, Colletti said Juan Pierre's desire to be traded, expressed by his agent but not formally conveyed to the club, "is more complicated than saying he wants to play someplace else." In other words, Pierre is outfield insurance, and even if the club wants to trade him, there is $28.5 million and three years remaining on his contract that will impact any deal.
The Dodgers have options on Penny and backup catcher Gary Bennett, with a deadline of seven days after the World Series. Colletti wouldn't indicate what the club will do. Penny has a $9.25 million salary or $2 million buyout, while Bennett has a $900,000 salary or $50,000 buyout.
Colletti said there is no clarity on whether Takashi Saito would return as closer at age 39 coming off a serious elbow injury, but the GM said he'd "love to have him back. I also know what he's been through the last two months."
Colletti spoke to Arn Tellem, Nomar Garciaparra's agent, but it was preliminary. Constant physical ailments have left Garciaparra considering retirement.
As for the organizational meetings, Colletti said the message stressed to all levels of baseball operations was to tighten up fundamentals.
"The new Glendale facility gives us the opportunity to restore player development methods that have made this organization so strong for a long time -- that's the goal," he said.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.