Colletti quiets notion of big bat addition
Dodgers GM says offense likely set; starter sought
MILWAUKEE -- With franchise slugger Matt Kemp on the verge of being locked up long term and just-signed free agent Mark Ellis officially the new starting second baseman, general manager Ned Colletti on Tuesday said the Dodgers offense is pretty well set, with no Prince Fielder addition expected.
"As far as a big bat, as they say, we'll probably have to pass on that at this point," Colletti said from the General Managers Meetings. "As of today, unless something changes, it looks less realistic.
"We'll have to figure out other ways to produce runs -- the way Juan Rivera produced for us the second half. We need Juan Uribe to give us offense, and he didn't give us much. And we need Andre Ethier healthy. Any examination of our club seems their seasons were not indicative of the power and production. Andre and James Loney, they should be in the primes of their careers, and we expect them to have a better 2012 than 2011."
With the Dodgers in bankruptcy and a sale process under way, the Dodgers' payroll appears likely to be reduced from the $105 million of this year. Colletti still needs a starting pitcher -- either the re-signing of Hiroki Kuroda or a reasonable facsimile -- as well as a veteran catcher and infielder.
"We're trying to get the payroll figured out, and that will dictate what we do in that regard [starting pitcher] and a few others," Colletti said.
Kuroda told the club he would re-sign if he felt there was a good chance of winning it all. He has a low-ball offer to return to Japan, but he also is expected to speak to other clubs, the Angels for example, if he rules out the Dodgers. If Kuroda leaves, pitchers on the Dodgers' radar include Chris Capuano, Jeff Francis and Aaron Harang.
The Dodgers reportedly are close to signing journeyman catcher Matt Treanor and are considering a versatile utilityman like Jerry Hairston Jr. Colletti said the club still has some interest in free agent Aaron Miles.
"We're getting close on somebody to back up A.J. Ellis at this point," he said, but would not confirm that it's Treanor. Originally, the Dodgers considered teaming A.J. Ellis with rookie Tim Federowicz, but now the club seems to feel the latter needs more seasoning. "It will be more of a defensive position. It's not an intriguing pool of offensive players. So you pay less and get more defense."
The team announced Tuesday the signing of the 34-year-old Mark Ellis to an $8.75 million deal for two years and an option, only days after Minnesota's signing of former Dodger Jamey Carroll to a two-year, $7 million deal. Colletti agreed that the run on infielders this winter is reminiscent of the run on middle relievers last winter.
Colletti said the team chose Mark Ellis for defense first, with analysis by new front-office number cruncher Alex Tamin. Ellis leads all active MLB second basemen in "zone rating," a calculation based on ground-ball chances in a defined zone by position.
"As we looked at last season, we felt defense at second base was one of our weaknesses," Colletti said of the spot that initially was to be manned by Uribe, but mostly was handled by Carroll and Miles. "We tried to rectify that with a defensive adjustment. I think it's an upgrade from a year ago. Our defense up the middle, with Matt in center, Dee Gordon at short, Ellis at second and a group of catchers we'll continue to assemble, we'll be better up the middle."
Ellis, a 10-year veteran, batted .248 with seven home runs, 41 RBIs and a career-high-tying 14 stolen bases in 132 combined games with Oakland and Colorado last season. After being acquired by Colorado on July 1, he finished the season by hitting .274 with six home runs and 25 RBIs in 70 games as the Rockies' everyday second baseman. He has a .266 career batting average with 92 homers.
Colletti would not discuss the Kemp deal until it is officially announced, but said that when it is, "it will be a huge step for us."
He indicated there is not the same urgency to lock up Ethier to a long-term contract as he's still recovering from knee surgery.
"We wanted to zero in on Matt and get him done and see what the winter brings," Colletti said.
He added that he's encouraged to have finished off so much business so quickly, as well as by the way the club finished up the season against a relatively tough schedule.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.