Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti said Wednesday his communication with agent Scott Boras this off-season has been limited to two voice messages, meaning they might not meet in person to discuss the future of free-agent outfielder Manny Ramirez until the general managers’ meetings that start Monday in Dana Point.
Colletti said he hoped to talk to Boras soon and that re-signing Ramirez would be one of the Dodgers’ top three priorities this winter, along with bolstering the infield and rotation.
Though Colletti described Ramirez’s two-plus months with the Dodgers as “phenomenal” and acknowledged the slugger’s appeal to their fan base would factor in their pursuit of him, he denied that he would be affected by public pressure when negotiating with Boras.
“The organization has to do what’s best for the organization,” Colletti said.
Colletti has often expressed his preference of signing players to shorter deals with higher annual salaries, but wouldn’t divulge whether that’s the kind of deal he and owner Frank McCourt had in mind for Ramirez.
Strategies of how to maneuver in the free-agent market were among the topics that were discussed at the Dodgers’ three-day organizational meetings that ended Monday and Colletti said he couldn’t wait for a resolution in Ramirez’s situation to start making moves.
“I can’t put the major league club on hold for any one player,” he said.
Colletti said he has had preliminary discussions with the agents of Rafael Furcal and Casey Blake. With Furcal and Blake about to file for free agency and second baseman Jeff Kent expected to retire, the only likely everyday infielders under the Dodgers’ control are first baseman James Loney and Blake DeWitt, who can play either second or third base.
Colletti said that while 24-year-old Chad Billingsley, who was 16-10 with a 3.14 earned-run average this season, could grow into an ace, acquiring a top-of-the-rotation arm is a priority.
Re-signing Derek Lowe or landing free agent CC Sabathia are options. A less likely solution is to trade for the suddenly available Jake Peavy. People close to the situation who were unauthorized to discuss the matter publicly say that the San Diego Padres would demand more in return from the Dodgers because they are in the same division.
Colletti said he hasn’t spoken this off-season with Brad Penny, who publicly questioned the team’s commitment to him. The Dodgers have to decide in the next week whether to pick up the $9.25-million option for 2009 or buy it out for $2 million.
Colletti wouldn’t say whether the Dodgers planned to re-sign 35-year-old free agent Nomar Garciaparra, who completed his third injury-plagued season with the Dodgers.
What Colletti said he couldn’t do without knowing where Ramirez will play next season is trade any of the outfielders on the roster. Colletti hasn’t heard from Juan Pierre or Andruw Jones or their representatives, but both players are believed to be seeking moves.