LOS ANGELES -- The calendar still says 2011, but the Dodgers began preparing for 2012 on Sunday.
First, they recalled rookie Dee Gordon to replace veteran shortstop Rafael Furcal, whose trade to the Cardinals was finalized. Then they addressed a lack of depth in the Minor League system with a 3-for-1 deal of Minor Leaguers, sending outfield prospect Trayvon Robinson to the Boston Red Sox for catching prospect Tim Federowicz, right-handed starting pitcher Stephen Fife and right-handed reliever Juan Rodriguez.
And almost as a throw-away line when asked if there were trade inquiries for outfielder Andre Ethier, general manager Ned Colletti deflected the question while revealing future plans.
"I won't talk about players mentioned in trade talks, but hopefully we can sign Andre and Matt Kemp," Colletti said, knowing that both outfielders have one year remaining of arbitration eligibility and will be looking for multiyear contracts that not only make them wildly wealthy, but demonstrate commitment and financial wherewithal from a franchise currently in bankruptcy.
Colletti was talking while in an unusual role for a Dodgers GM -- that as seller at the Trade Deadline, the first time for the club since 1992.
Through the Furcal deal, the Dodgers received $1.38 million of salary relief (they're still responsible for the remaining $3.42 million) and Minor League outfielder Alex Castellanos, who was assigned to Double-A Chattanooga.
In addition to the money and player, the trade allowed the Dodgers to clear the way for Gordon to prove he's the shortstop of the future, without Furcal having to sit and watch when he could be helping a contender and earning a contract for next year. Gordon ranks as the No. 25 prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com.
Colletti was asked how important the cash offset was as a motivation for the trade.
"The salary savings is not as great as the opportunity for Dee Gordon to play," he said.
Nobody is predicting that Castellanos is the answer to the Dodgers' left-field need. But the acquisition of Federowicz addressed a position that management believed lacked depth.
"In position players we are lean, and catchers ultra-lean," said Colletti. "Position players, we're a touch below where we need to be. Pitching-wise, with what we have at Double-A, we're above average."
Already on the scene from Chattanooga are Rubby De La Rosa, Javy Guerra and Josh Lindblom. Look for a few more come September, like starting pitchers Nathan Eovaldi or Allen Webster and reliever Shawn Tolleson.
The highest-rated position player in the system was Gordon, who is now in the Dodgers lineup and has two months to prove he belongs there.
"I'm not looking at it as an audition," said manager Don Mattingly. "In a sense, you're always proving yourself, that you can still play, even if you've been here awhile. You're always proving yourself in this game. You're either a problem or a solution. In a sense, it's an audition, but in my mind, it's a chance for Dee to develop."
Mattingly had Gordon batting eighth in Sunday's series finale against Arizona, but said the speedster will occasionally show up atop the lineup.
"That's what he's been and profiles as," he said. "Right now, we'll mix and match to keep the pressure off. I just want him to play. [Tony Gwynn] is having great at-bats right now [leading off]."
Gordon, who hit .232 with nine steals in a 22-game cameo in June, said he's ready.
"It doesn't seem like it's been fast," he said of his Minor League career, which saw him climb one rung each year and play in 394 games. "The stuff I've gone through in the Minor Leagues, maybe to you guys it seems fast, but it seems long and drawn out to me."
The last time the Dodgers waved a white flag this early was the historic 99-loss season of 1992, when they dealt away Kal Daniels and Stan Javier. Since then, they've either been aggressive buyers or stood pat.
Mattingly conceded that such a move can take the competitive edge off a team.
"I have a little bit of a concern about something like that," he said. "But they knew Dee was coming, that [Furcal] was a free agent. In a sense, we're not saying we're quitting. It just kind of makes sense for everybody, for us and for Dee and for [Furcal], to be able to take a good look at Dee. We're not just unloading. It's common sense. The kid came up and played well. He's a great kid, too."
Mattingly said his goals remain to "win every day and build that championship mentality."
He said he spoke with Furcal before Saturday night's game. Furcal cleaned out his locker and was gone before the end of the game.
"He was a little down. He had mixed emotions," said Mattingly. "He knows it's the best thing for him right now. I have so much respect for him. He plays so hard, cares so much. This is going to be a better situation for his career. It still hurts to be leaving, and that tells you a lot about [Furcal]. I really feel he'll go off over there.
"He started swinging the bat well. It's a great environment, a good club playing well. When he plays, he's great. He's really a catalyst. When things were going good for us, [Furcal] was going good. If you don't like the way he plays, you don't like the game very much."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.