The baseball winter meetings ended Monday with the Dodgers among many clubs kept waiting to an extent by the prolonged discussions involving the Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers regarding an Alex Rodriguez trade.
As the Red Sox continued their pursuit of the Ranger All-Star, the Dodgers hoped the complex and high-finance trade of Rodriguez for outfielder Manny Ramirez ultimately would lead to Boston shortstop Nomar Garciaparra’s coming to Los Angeles.
The Southland native remains the Dodgers’ top target for a middle-of-the-order right-handed batter, club sources said, and people close to Garciaparra said the feeling is mutual because of his deteriorating relationship with the Red Sox. A-Rod’s big move appeared to gain momentum as Texas owner Tom Hicks and Boston’s principal owner, John Henry, continued talks about the potential blockbuster, and several baseball sources indicated a deal could be completed within days.
“It’s at the ownership level, and that’s where the focus is going to be now,” said Scott Boras, Rodriguez’s agent.
“That’s not to say that something is going to happen. I don’t know if anything will happen, all I know is that they’re talking. The nature of these things is that you just have to wait and see.”
The Dodgers believe they won’t have to wait much longer for Garciaparra to become available, though completing a deal is another matter. Although the Angels are no longer believed to be interested in trading for the former Bellflower St. John Bosco High standout, the Dodgers could face competition from the Seattle Mariners, who finished behind the Baltimore Orioles in bidding for shortstop Miguel Tejada.
Indicating how much the Dodgers want Garciaparra, a Dodger source said Evans might be willing to include in the deal left-hander Greg Miller, the club’s minor league pitcher of the year. Other potential trades throughout baseball are also stalled at the table as clubs wait for the biggest domino to fall.
“There are some things that are dependent on other things,” said Evans, not commenting specifically on the A-Rod situation. “But I think we did a good job of establishing what our options are.”
Chicago White Sox outfielder Magglio Ordonez, who hit 29 homers and drove in 99 runs last season, is the Dodgers’ first option if something goes awry with Garciaparra.
Dodger scouts have raved about Ordonez since Evans formulated his off-season strategy in an October meeting with his top advisors, club sources said. The Dodgers and White Sox worked late into the evening Sunday to try to hammer out a deal for Ordonez, whom some scouts consider to be a better fit for the Dodgers than Garciaparra.
But although White Sox General Manager Ken Williams won’t trade Ordonez, who will make $14 million in the last year of his contract in 2004, to the Dodgers unless standout reliever Guillermo Mota is the centerpiece of a four- to five-player package, Evans and White Sox official Larry Monroe met repeatedly before the clubs left the meetings here Monday.
“We only make moves that we believe make us better as a team and as an organization,” said Williams, who declined to comment on the Ordonez talks. “I’ll consider anything that will help us because that’s my job, but I’m not going to consider things that don’t help us.”
Meanwhile, the Dodgers moved forward with free agents.
Two National League general managers said the Dodgers officially got into the bidding for All-Star catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who is believed to be seeking a four-year, $36-million contract. The Dodgers last month offered catcher Paul Lo Duca to the Florida Marlins for Derrek Lee and to the Milwaukee Brewers for Richie Sexson.
Some in the organization expressed concerns about Lo Duca, sources said, in part because his offensive statistics have decreased significantly the last two seasons after he batted .320 with 25 home runs and 90 runs batted in during 2001. Lo Duca will receive $3.9 million in 2004.
The Oakland Athletics are among the clubs that have expressed significant interest in Lo Duca, although the A’s traded for Montreal Expo catcher Michael Barrett on Monday. Whether Lo Duca remains with the Dodgers might depend on how close Ivan Rodriguez is to signing with the Baltimore Orioles.
Free-agent second baseman Todd Walker also is among the contingency plans.
A career .290 hitter, Walker batted .283 with 13 homers, 38 doubles and 85 RBIs for Boston last season.
The Dodgers moved closer to bolstering their new-look rotation by re-signing left-hander Wilson Alvarez, who went 6-2 with a 2.37 earned-run average. The Dodgers also announced the signing of outfielder Juan Encarnacion, whom they acquired from the Florida Marlins.
Terms were not disclosed, but a club source said Encarnacion signed a two-year, $8-million contract. He will receive $3.5 million in 2004 and $4.5 million in 2005.
“I give our staff a lot of credit,” Evans said. “They really did a good job identifying what we can and cannot do.”