Dodgers outline offseason needs

Dodgers outline offseason needs

LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti and manager Joe Torre got an early start on the managing of offseason expectations Friday when they said an acquisition of an ace starting pitcher is unlikely.

"There's not a long list of guys where you would say, this guy would make a dramatic difference," Colletti said of the upcoming crop of free-agent starters. "It's a thin market. There are pitchers who would make us better. But tremendously better?

"Every club needs an ace and we're not unlike any club. We might have one or two in the making [referring to Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley]. But the likelihood of an ace becoming available by trade is very slim. And this [free-agent] class doesn't have that type of allure to it."

Said Torre: "Clayton Kershaw has not been lobbying for it, but the way he pitched, he's not afraid of it. Billingsley, even with a rough second half, he has the personality and ability to be a No. 1. [Hiroki] Kuroda got beat up. We'll have to see what going outside means. In all likelihood, that guy is not available."

In the wake of the Dodgers' second consecutive elimination by the Phillies, meetings have already begun at Dodger Stadium to address areas needing improvement. Torre put a particularly upbeat spin on the season, despite the way it ended, with a pair of blowouts and a bullpen collapse.

Said Torre: "One thing we showed was the personality to handle big situations and important series. The last game, you have to throw out. We're capable of pitching better. It was like everybody had to be extra special."

Said Colletti: "I'm not sitting here and throwing out 95 wins in the regular season and sweeping St. Louis with two aces in the playoffs. We got beat by a real good team. In 1977-78, the Phillies got beat by a real good Dodgers team. You don't pick your time, the time picks you. It was not our time right now."

Colletti and Torre are in agreement on the key needs -- starting pitching depth and a starting second baseman.

But they also reiterated their comfort with the young nucleus of a club that has won back-to-back division titles. Veterans on the left side of the infield -- third baseman Casey Blake and shortstop Rafael Furcal -- are signed through 2011. The young core -- outfielders Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, catcher Russell Martin, first baseman James Loney and pitchers Chad Billingsley and Jonathan Broxton -- are under control through arbitration for at least two more years. Kuroda is signed through 2010.

Of course, there also is Manny Ramirez, who has until Nov. 10 to decide whether he will exercise his option to return at a salary of $20 million. The Dodgers have not heard from Ramirez or agent Scott Boras on the issue.

Assuming Ramirez returns, the Dodgers still have 15 players eligible for free agency: Brad Ausmus, Ronnie Belliard, Juan Castro, Jon Garland, Orlando Hudson, Mark Loretta, Doug Mientkiewicz, Eric Milton, Guillermo Mota, Will Ohman, Vicente Padilla, Jason Schmidt, Jim Thome, Jeff Weaver and Randy Wolf.

It's conceivable none will return. Hudson, Wolf and Padilla are looking for multi-year deals that the Dodgers are no longer fond of doling out. Hudson even lost his starting job to Belliard late in the season and had his locker cleared out before the NLCS ended. Wolf was the Dodgers' most consistent starter, having probably his best season other than the 16 no-decisions that left him with a deceptive 11-7 record. Padilla was better than advertised until he got whacked Wednesday night.

Most of the others are complementary players. Thome likely will return to the American League as a designated hitter. Schmidt is expected to retire. Ohman has already been bought out of his option.

As of Friday, members of the coaching staff had not heard anything about their future. One in high demand is hitting coach Don Mattingly, the presumed heir-apparent to Torre, and Colletti didn't rule out the possibility of making a pre-emptive move to keep Mattingly from taking the Cleveland or Washington jobs by formalizing his succession of Torre with a contract, although that would be unprecedented for the Dodgers.

"We'll have some conversations. ... We'll have to see what happens," Colletti said. "He's going to do what's best for Don Mattingly and we're going to try and do what's best for the Dodgers, and at the same time, we're going to keep in mind what's best for Don Mattingly."

Colletti and Torre also addressed questions about the executive suite drama between owner Frank McCourt and estranged wife Jamie, who was fired this week as CEO.

"I don't anticipate that it will," Colletti said, when asked if their divorce would impact the baseball operations. "I don't know for sure, but I don't anticipate that there's been any change in how we do business in the last few weeks."

Torre was asked if he was "definitely" returning for the final season of his contract and he said, "Yes," adding that he already is "enjoying the thought of next spring." However, he did sidestep questions about the McCourt divorce.

"We're of a mind that we'll be able to address our needs," he said. "The question is legitimate. I'd like to believe, as unsettled as it seems right now, the Los Angeles Dodgers the last couple years have become a presence, and I'd like to believe that's not going to change."

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