While the division rival Arizona Diamondbacks added All-Star Edwin Jackson to their rotation in a three-way trade involving the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees on Tuesday, the Dodgers were still faced with the possibility that journeyman knuckleballer Charlie Haeger might be their fifth starter on opening day.
Actually, make that their fourth starter.
But that wasn’t because the Dodgers weren’t asking around.
General Manager Ned Colletti said he showed up to baseball’s winter meetings with a list consisting of Roy Halladay and three mid-level pitchers he wanted to target, only to be reminded over the last two days that swapping players with another team is harder to do in December than it is in July with the trade deadline around the corner.
“We’re not really making any headway,” Colletti said. “I didn’t come in here thinking we were going to get a lot of different things done. Without deadlines, it’s tough to push deals to get made, so that was always somewhat of a longshot.”
Colletti never mentioned Halladay by name -- he called him “the big guy” -- but said of where his conversations with Toronto are headed, “It’s tough to tell. They play it pretty coy with what their thought process is.”
The Dodgers were among the teams that inquired about Jackson, according to a source with knowledge of the talks who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
But fantasies of reacquiring the pitcher who made his debut with them as a 20-year-old were doused by reality: The Dodgers would not only have to send a bundle of prospects to Detroit, they would have to pay the arbitration-eligible right-hander a 2010 salary that is projected to be $4-plus million.
In a three-way deal that is pending the review of medical records, the Tigers sent Jackson to Arizona and outfielder Curtis Granderson to the New York Yankees.
The Tigers received four prospects -- pitcher Phil Coke and outfielder Austin Jackson from the Yankees and pitchers Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth from the Diamondbacks.
The Diamondbacks also received pitcher Ian Kennedy from the Yankees, meaning they might have added two arms to a rotation that already includes Dan Haren and Brandon Webb.
While the Dodgers might have lacked the incentive to offer the kind of bounty to land Jackson -- the Diamondbacks’ willingness to part with Scherzer, who won’t be a free agent until the winter of 2014-15, points to an urgency to win now -- Colletti said he has not abandoned hope of finding his fourth starter in a trade.
Colletti said he would exhaust his options on the trade market before turning to the free-agent market to add to a rotation that will return only Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley and Hiroki Kuroda.
“If you make a trade, you change your dynamics for free agency as well,” he said. “So we’re trying to get deals done before we do much free-agent work and figure the deals we’re trying to get done are impossible to make.”
The Dodgers have had preliminary discussions with the representatives of free-agent pitchers Randy Wolf, Vicente Padilla and Joel Pineiro, who are seeking multiyear deals.
The Dodgers would prefer to add two starters this winter, but would settle for one -- and this is where Haeger comes into play.
If the Dodgers acquire a fourth starter but not a fifth via trade or free agency, Colletti said he would be fine filling the vacancy with in-house candidates like Haeger, Scott Elbert, James McDonald, Josh Lindblom and Ramon Troncoso.
“We have enough faith in our younger pitchers,” Colletti said.