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Dodgers keeping free-agent cards close to their chest

Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers' president of baseball operations, refused to acknowledge interest in Jon Lester

As afternoon turned into evening on the shores of San Diego Bay, the general manager of each major league club briefed the reporters that cover his team.

Brian Sabean, the general manager of the World Series-champion San Francisco Giants, assured fans his team remained active in its pursuit of Jon Lester. So did Ben Cherington, the general manager of the Boston Red Sox.

Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers' new president of baseball operations, refused to acknowledge any interest in Lester, or even to utter his name.

Lester, one of the grand prizes among free-agent starting pitchers, could pick his new team Tuesday. The Red Sox are in. The Chicago Cubs are in. The San Francisco Giants are in. The Dodgers might be. Sabean said he thought a fifth team might be. The New York Yankees could afford a late entry into the Lester sweepstakes.

Friedman said he had not visited any free agents. The owner of the Red Sox, John Henry, traveled to Georgia to visit Lester at his home. So did the Giants' manager, Bruce Bochy. Lester also got a recruiting pitch from the Giants' resident icon, catcher Buster Posey.

Lester would fit the Dodgers nicely on several fronts. They could sign him without sacrificing a top draft pick, at a time they say they are committed to revitalize their player development pipeline. They could strike a preemptive blow against the expected loss of Zack Greinke, who can opt out of his contract after next season. And they are one of the few teams that can afford the $150 million — or more — it might take to sign Lester.

Or can they? In the first two years under Guggenheim ownership, the Dodgers spent money as if they printed their own.

They wanted catcher Russell Martin this winter, but not at the high bid. They were interested in left-handed reliever Andrew Miller, but not at the high bid, and two club officials said Monday they did not make an offer for Miller.

Friedman had no desire to discuss Lester, lest another team might discover a really good club with a lot of money is interested in a really good pitcher that might cost a lot of money.

"I think teams not fully knowing and appreciating our plan, whether we are in on certain guys or not, is something that is helpful," Friedman said. "Telegraphing each step is more harmful to us, in terms of other teams having that information."

Friedman would rather other teams think the Dodgers are in on everyone — as if agents do not try to convince other teams of that anyway.

"With really good players, we are always going to check in on them," Friedman said, "whether it's on the trade market or on the free-agent market. I think that is always a safe assumption."

But can the Dodgers afford a sixth contract worth nine figures?

"I wouldn't rule it in or out," said Dodgers President Stan Kasten. "We could do anything we thought was smart."

The Dodgers' non-information campaign is made possible by the success of the Guggenheim owners. The owners spent, the team won, the fans came.

The Dodgers sold out of season tickets last year, and more than 3,000 fans remain on a waiting list, said David Siegel, vice president of ticket sales. They do not need a big-bucks signing to persuade fans they are serious about winning.

"People still love the Dodgers," Siegel said. "They don't love the Dodgers any less than they did a year ago."

Winning speaks for itself, apparently. Not much margin for error in that.

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

Twitter: @BillShaikin

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