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12/09/08 12:31 PM EST

Colletti: Dodgers discussing Sabathia

GM says team could relax rule on contract limits for free-agent pitcher

LAS VEGAS -- Sounding confident he will re-sign free-agent third baseman Casey Blake, general manager Ned Colletti on Monday night elaborated on what appears to be the Dodgers' increasing interest in free-agent pitcher CC Sabathia.

Colletti clarified his chance meeting with Sabathia in the Bellagio Casino on Sunday night, on the eve of the four-day Winter Meetings, saying it wasn't Sabathia who said he wanted to play for the Dodgers but that "he's told us in other ways, not directly to me."

Although the Dodgers have expressed interest to Sabathia's agent, Greg Genske, they have not held or scheduled a negotiating meeting. Nonetheless, Colletti made it clear there has been significant internal discussion about Sabathia because he's the premier free agent available at the Dodgers' most needy position.

Even more intriguing, Colletti revealed that Sabathia is the kind of pitcher for which the Dodgers might relax their unwritten rule limiting contracts for pitchers to three years, although the club hasn't decided how far it might go for him.

"We've tried to stay short, three or less, but in special circumstances it might be more depending on the age, the health history, like that," said Colletti. "He would be worth a consideration."

Sabathia reportedly has been sitting on a six-year, $140 million offer from the Yankees and a $100 million offer from Milwaukee. The native Californian is moving his offseason home to Southern California and there are indications the family is pushing for a California team. He has given no indication he's in a hurry to decide and Colletti seems focused first on solidifying his infield before he makes the kind of financial commitment required to sign a Sabathia.

But Colletti didn't deny that his young pitching staff could use an undisputed ace like the 28-year-old Sabathia and said he expected to pick up at least one starter via signing or trade. The Dodgers rotation currently consists of Chad Billingsley and his broken leg, Hiroki Kuroda and Clayton Kershaw. Other slots in the rotation could go to a group that consists of Jason Schmidt, James McDonald and Eric Stults.

Colletti said the Dodgers are not uncomfortable with Sabathia's ample frame because of his athleticism.

"Some people carry weight better than others," he said. "We have a good idea who he is and how he takes care of himself."

As for Blake, Colletti said "we're still talking, hopefully moving closer, but don't have anything yet," which sometimes is an indication that terms have been agreed to but a final hurdle, such as a medical exam, is still to be cleared. Blake likely would receive a three-year deal for around $17 million.

The 35-year-old Blake, acquired from Cleveland on July 26, was a stabilizer during the club's second-half surge, slugging 10 homers with 23 RBIs and a .258 average in 58 games after hitting .289 with 11 homers and 58 RBIs for the Indians.

Blake played most of the month of September with a badly bruised biceps muscle that hampered him hitting and throwing. He was acquired for reliever Jon Meloan and Minor League catcher Carlos Santana and earned $6.1 million in 2008.

Colletti said earlier Monday at MLB's Winter Meetings that a return of Blake would allow Blake DeWitt to remain at second base, a position he took over after Jeff Kent was injured. Kent is a free agent and is considering retirement.

With James Loney at first base, Colletti's next priority is to resolve shortstop. He met Monday with the agent for Rafael Furcal, but there was no indication of any progress in those talks. Furcal, who played only one month because of back surgery, seeks a four-year contract. Colletti said the club wants a two-year deal or possibly three depending on the structure, possibly meaning an option year could be triggered if he stays healthy.

Without Furcal at shortstop, the Dodgers could go internally (Angel Berroa, Chin-lung Hu, Ivan DeJesus Jr., Tony Abreu) to fill the spot, reserving resources to acquire a pitcher or outfielder.

Meanwhile, Colletti said there is nothing new with Manny Ramirez and "the next communication ought to start with them."

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