Dodgers Are Worrying About Infield First

Ken RosenthalAnalyst IDecember 4, 2008

The Dodgers are trying to sort out their infield before they address their starting pitching.

The solution remains elusive.

Re-signing Casey Blake would solidify third base and enable the Dodgers to keep Blake DeWitt at second, leaving shortstop as the team's remaining infield question.

However, if the Dodgers lose Blake, they would put DeWitt back at third, creating an opening at second. Signing free agent Orlando Hudson would be one option, but the Dodgers more likely would pursue an inexpensive veteran such as Mark Loretta, Ray Durham or Mark Grudzielanek.

At that point, the Dodgers still would need a shortstop. They've maintained contact with Paul Kinzer, the agent for free agent Rafael Furcal, but they're not going to sign Edgar Renteria, who is headed to the Giants, or Orlando Cabrera, in whom they have little interest.

Trade talks for the Pirates' Jack Wilson, meanwhile, remain stalled.

The Dodgers could go with a combination of Angel Berroa, Chin-Lung Hu and eventually Ivan DeJesus Jr. at short, but such a defensive emphasis would make sense only if they found enough offense at other positions. Which is why they need Blake. And — ahem — either Manny Ramirez or a replacement such as Adam Dunn in left field.

Ramirez appears a longshot; Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti hasn't spoken to Scott Boras about the slugger in nearly a month. The Dodgers instead could load up on pitching, but from every indication, they also are not a player for free-agent left-hander CC Sabathia.

More starting pitchers are available than infielders, which is why the Dodgers are focusing on the infield first. They eventually could target lesser free-agent starters such as Randy Johnson and Randy Wolf. And if they lose Ramirez, Blake and right-hander Derek Lowe, they could end up with six of the top 50 picks in next year's draft, with minimal contractual commitments for 2010 and '11.

The question, though, remains: What about '09?

The Manny Market

Manny Ramirez, who earned $20 million last season, probably would command at least $25 million on a one-year deal if he accepted the Dodgers' offer of arbitration.

The Dodgers would rejoice over such a development-it would mark the second time they've gotten ridiculously lucky with Ramirez, the first being when they acquired him last July 31.

But does anyone seriously think Ramirez and his agent, Scott Boras, will decide by the Sunday deadline that a lucrative multi-year deal is out of reach?

Such a move would be a concession by Boras that the faltering economy is inhibiting the free-agent market-a premise that the agent has disputed since the start of the offseason.

Ramirez, who wants at least a four-year contract, wouldn't be happy if he returned to the Dodgers on a one-year deal. And an unhappy Manny would be a problem for both Boras and the Dodgers.

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