MLB.com Columnist

Lyle Spencer

Colletti calm, but knows he has work to do

Colletti calm, but knows he has work to do

Colletti calm, but knows he has work to do

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Layouts don't get much bigger than the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. It stretches forever, but it's still easy to identify the elephant in the room.

It's found on the sixth floor, in the suite of Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti.

The Dodgers have the highest payroll in the Major Leagues at $198.3 million, having pushed the Yankees down from their perennial perch, and Los Angeles doesn't appear to be finished spending freely to fill needs and raise hopes of its revitalized fan base.

Zack Greinke, the premier pitcher in the free-agent market, remains in play, along with several other starters who would get the attention of the National League West and World Series champion Giants.

Colletti, true to the GM code, is not naming names, but it's clear he has specific targets. And Greinke is at the top of the list.

"I don't think anybody's on the doorstep, ahead of anybody," said Colletti, who was calm and collected on Monday. "We have a small group of people we're interested in. As the days go on, we hope to get a deal."

The Guggenheim Baseball Management team already has demonstrated, with $305.5 million invested in five athletes last summer, how it aims for the sky and acts boldly.

"We're not casting a large net over 15 guys," Colletti said. "You could find us involved in numerous scenarios. We've probably talked to less agents this year than we have in the past. And I don't see us making any additional calls."

The top guns behind Greinke, who finished 2012 with the Angels and is believed to be in line for roughly $25 million per year for five or six years, are Anibal Sanchez, Ryan Dempster and Kyle Lohse. Dan Haren, Shaun Marcum, Edwin Jackson and Brandon McCarthy also are possible options.

There's another intriguing name floating out there. The Dodgers are keenly aware of R.A. Dickey and have made inquiries into what it would take.

Dickey is 38, and signed for a bargain-basement $5 million for 2013. He reportedly would like a two-year extension, and he is not the risk normally associated with a pitcher his age. Knuckleballers tend to wear well, pitching into their 40s without much strain if they so desire.

Given his value and the Mets' extensive needs, the National League Cy Young Award winner could become an ex-Met any day now if a package of young talent is found sufficiently appealing in Queens.

The Dodgers' farm system is not deep at the moment, in part because of deals with Boston and Miami that reeled in Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto last summer. But if some combination of Zach Lee, Chris Reed, Angel Sanchez and Chris Withrow -- young arms with potential -- have appeal, a deal for Dickey might not be out of the question.

A more likely trade partner for the Mets is a club with position prospects ready to play. The Dodgers are lacking in that area.

Colletti doesn't appear impatient. He said he hadn't made any concrete offers yet and understands that the market waits on Greinke. As soon as the big domino falls, the rest will begin to land.

The Angels and Rangers, always keenly aware of each other, both would love to have Greinke. He could turn the American League West one way or the other, supporting Jered Weaver in Anaheim or serving as Texas' No. 1 starter.

That's why Greinke is in command. He dictates the pace of these winter deals.

The Dodgers know their history. When they've ruled, both in Brooklyn and in Los Angeles, dominant starting pitching has been the cornerstone of their success.

In Brooklyn, with the legendary "Boys of Summer," Carl Erskine and Don Newcombe were about as good a duo as you could find. In the 1960s, Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale took the Dodgers to championships. The next generation produced Fernando Valenzuela and Orel Hershiser in tandem and championships in 1981 and 1988.

It's been relatively quiet in Chavez Ravine for too long.

Clayton Kershaw, the resident ace, is the most valuable pitcher in the game at age 25. Pairing him with Greinke -- or Dickey, for that matter -- would give the Dodgers the brand of top-shelf, front-end starters associated with the franchise's greatness.

The Dodgers have quality veterans in Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang, Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly. They posted $25.7 for exclusive negotiating rights with Korean lefty Ryu Hyun-jin that expire on Saturday. If no deal is done, Ryu returns to Korea and the $25.7 million is returned to the Dodgers.

Colletti is like Greinke, in a sense. There's no need to rush, no need to force the action. The Dodgers have a $6 billion cable TV deal on the table. Greinke is about to become wealthier than he could have imagined growing up in Florida.

"We're very prepared," Colletti said. "If you're a fit, and you'd like to be a Dodger ..."

The world is your oyster. Colletti didn't say that, but it's the obvious conclusion to the thought.

Lyle Spencer is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.