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Dodgers eyeing infielder, relievers at Winter Meetings

Dodgers eyeing infielder, relievers at Winter Meetings

Dodgers eyeing infielder, relievers at Winter Meetings

LOS ANGELES -- A year ago, the Dodgers still hadn't acquired Zack Greinke or Hyun-Jin Ryu, J.P. Howell or Skip Schumaker.

So general manager Ned Colletti heads to next week's Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., with a more manageable shopping list -- a starting infielder, a couple of relief pitchers and a utility man.

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In a perfect world, the Dodgers would re-sign free-agent third baseman Juan Uribe and lefty reliever Howell for something more modest than the three-year deals they seek. So far, Colletti has waited for them to soften demands before going in another direction.

If Colletti is to make big news at Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort, it would be with a trade of one of his outfielders. The rumor mill has focused on Matt Kemp (Seattle?), who not only has $128 million left on his contract, but has physical issues coming off surgeries on his left ankle and left shoulder.

That makes him the one the Dodgers are most likely willing to move, but also the one other clubs are most wary of.

Andre Ethier has a more affordable remaining contract ($71.5 million), but he probably wouldn't bring the king's ransom of young players that the Dodgers would require to move either of them.

One stated goal of Colletti is to get younger and more athletic, and club president Stan Kasten also has put the focus on infusing the farm system with better talent.

So, a trade for prospects would also put the Dodgers in position to flip a young player or two in a follow-up deal for Tampa Bay pitcher David Price, who would give the Dodgers a Dream Team starting rotation. At this point, however, the Dodgers don't seem to have the young talent to pull off a Price deal.

They do, however, have money. That's why they are logically linked to Japanese free-agent starter Masahiro Tanaka. The Dodgers' interest in Tanaka will increase if a new posting system limits the blind bidding that threatened to make Tanaka a $100 million-plus acquisition. They posted $25.7 million for the rights to Korean pitcher Ryu last year, then signed him for another $36 million.

Club needs

Left-handed relief pitcher: Right now, it's a huge hole. Paco Rodriguez emerged as the go-to lefty, but by September he was shot. Howell provided a durable second lefty, but he's seeking a three-year contract that the Dodgers won't pay. Scott Elbert is coming off Tommy John surgery and won't be ready until midseason. Onelki Garcia had clean-up elbow surgery and might be ready for Spring Training.

Starting infielder: The simple solution is a return of Uribe v.2013. But Uribe wants a three-year contract and the Dodgers aren't going down that road again. If he lowers his demands, he returns at third base, Hanley Ramirez stays at short and Alexander Guerrero plays second. Without Uribe, the Dodgers can trade for a third baseman or move Ramirez to third and acquire a middle infielder (shortstop or second base) to team with Guerrero. Free agent Mark Ellis remains a possible short-term solution.

Bench: Colletti rebuilds the bench every year. This year he has no choice, as Nick Punto and Schumaker have already signed elsewhere and there's no indication that Michael Young or Jerry Hairston are returning. If none of the four outfielders is traded, however, the one that doesn't start each day provides a pretty nice bat off the bench.

Whom they can or need to trade

Other clubs are certain (hopeful?) the Dodgers feel compelled to trade one of their three highest-paid outfielders -- Kemp, Ethier or Carl Crawford, listed in order of their appeal to trade partners. The Dodgers are listening because they can unload a surplus contract and get younger players in return. A year ago, Dee Gordon topped this list because Ramirez stayed at shortstop. Now Gordon is on a crash course to learn the outfield to make him more versatile.

Top prospects

Outfielder Joc Pederson: A reputation as a gamer might have obscured the all-around tools that have made Pederson, ranked No. 1 by MLB.com among the Dodgers' Top 20 prospects, a big league candidate if the Dodgers trade away a starting outfielder. Whether he'll hit lefties is a question.

Shortstop Corey Seager: He's still 19 but the Dodgers already can't wait for him to arrive in Los Angeles and join Ramirez on the left side of the infield. He remains at shortstop, even though the 6-foot-4 frame suggests he'll wind up at third base.

Infielder Guerrero: He'll be 27 with a career in Cuba already under his belt, so he's not the typical prospect. But that makes him advanced enough to be considered an Opening Day starting infielder in the Major Leagues. It's still unclear if that will be at second base or shortstop.

Left-hander Julio Urias: The Mexican is only 17, but he might be the best pitching prospect in the organization, a lefty who has touched 98 mph with a curve and changeup.

Right-hander Zach Lee: He lacks the one dominant pitch you might expect for a $5.25 million signing bonus, but he's still considered a legitimate middle-of-the-rotation candidate who could arrive later next year.

Right-hander Chris Anderson: Last year's first-round pick might not project to an ace, but coming out of college he could move through the system quickly. The debut season was solid except for too many walks.

Right-hander Ross Stripling: He's been a little under the radar, but some in the organization believe he's as much of a prospect as Lee. He was Michael Wacha's college roommate and he could appear in Los Angeles in 2014.

Left-hander Chris Reed: The former Stanford reliever wants to start, but the Dodgers still aren't sure if his future might be better served in the bullpen.

Rule 5 Draft

The Dodgers have roster room to add a Rule 5 pick and don't seem overly concerned about losing anybody they haven't protected.

Big contracts to unload

Crawford ($82.5 million, four years), Ethier ($71.5 million, four years), Kemp ($128 million, six years).

Payroll summation

They spent a record $230 million last year and can afford anything, but Kasten has said he wants to rein that in and rely more on the farm system. There's already $190 million committed to 14 players, and that doesn't count Clayton Kershaw.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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