When the Winter Meetings begin on Monday, the Los Angeles Dodgers front office will have already accomplished several of their objectives. General Manager Ned Colletti filled out the rotation by re-signing Ted Lilly and Hiroki Kuroda before bringing back Jon Garland.
Following the starting rotation, Colletti turned his attention to second base, acquiring Juan Uribe with a three-year pact that sent waves through the free agent Hot Stove. In a corresponding move, Ryan Theriot was dealt to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for another bullet point on the GM's list. The Dodgers received reliever-starter swing-man Blake Hawksworth, the inning-eater LA was targeting.
However, there are still two main concerns: A catcher with a broken hip and a power bat to complement the other two outfielders.
Many reports on the signing of Uribe stated the veteran second baseman is the solution to the Dodgers' power search, but in 10 Major League seasons, he has never hit more than 24 home runs in a single season. Uribe is certainly a powerful infielder, but is he a considerable increase in production?
With reports of Adam Dunn signing with the White Sox, legitimate power options seem to be drying up. Adrian Beltre is still on the market, but his price tag is well out of the Dodgers' range. The team payroll is now over $100 million for 2011, and a three-year, $21M contract tendered to Uribe leaves little room for another blockbuster free-agent signing.
For this reason, it is possible the Dodgers will remain busy in the Winter Meetings. The gathering in Orlando will be the best time for LA to negotiate possible trades for a catcher or utility infielder. A power bat could also be found on another team's roster.
The Dodgers' trade stock is not the highest it's ever been, but there are still some moves to be made. If the Dodgers trade for an outfielder or a catcher, there are still a few options left on the free agent market, but those signings may also trigger trades.
Outfielder Johnny Damon is still available, and multiple sources say the Dodgers have increased interest in him. If the Boys in Blue were to land Damon, they would need to clear some payroll, which may trigger a Russell Martin sign-and-deal.
Colletti has said he wishes to retain Martin, but also voiced his concerns with the health of the workhorse backstop.
Yorvit Torrealba is off the market after a new contract with the Texas Rangers, but several other catchers remain free agents. The most attractive option is the return of Rod Barajas. The catcher's agent has said Barajas wishes to test the market, but hasn't ruled out returning to LA, and the Dodgers would likely welcome the homecoming.
It appears the team's next move is hinging on the next 24 hours, as the deadline to sign arbitration-eligible players will pass. If the Dodgers choose to sign Martin, he may be capable of earning $6M, but the Dodgers would be more likely to sign him if that number comes down, with $4M being in the appropriate range.
Free agent catchers include Miguel Olivo, Benji Molina and AJ Pierzynski. If the Dodgers don't tender Martin, one of these names could be coming to LA, and AJ Ellis would be considered a permanent backup. The likelihood of two AJs on the roster is slim, however, as Pierzynski's agent has mentioned his client would like to remain in Chicago.
Stay tuned to Dodgerland in the next few days, the Dodgers just might make more moves before the meetings.
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