Dodgers, Angels ready to shop for free agents
The Dodgers and the Angels both say they have money to spend this off-season. And both acknowledge they have holes to fill.
But that doesn’t mean they will have enough cash to buy what they need when the free-agent marketplace opens for business late Saturday night Pacific time.
Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti plans to do much of his shopping in the pitching aisle, where there are few bargains to be found this time of year.
“Pitching is a priority — both starters and relievers,” he said. “We’re open-minded to both left-handers and right-handers.”
The Dodgers’ payroll peaked at $95 million last season, and Colletti promised that number would rise, though he declined to say by how much.
The Dodgers owe more than $10 million to four players — Manny Ramirez ($3.3 million), Andruw Jones ($3.2 million), Juan Pierre ($3.5 million) and Scott Podsednik ($100,000) — no longer with the team. However, that didn’t stop Colletti from signing free-agent left-hander Ted Lilly to a three-year, $33-million deal last month.
That could be the biggest splash the team makes this off-season, though. The Dodgers aren’t likely to pursue a premier front-line starter such as Cliff Lee. Free-agent pitchers such as Carl Pavano, Javier Vazquez, Jake Westbrook and former Dodgers Jon Garland, Hiroki Kuroda and Vicente Padilla could become targets if the market should drop after the holidays.
Aside from pitching, Colletti said his focus will be on adding a left fielder — “full time or platoon,” he said — rebuilding the bench and figuring out what to do behind the plate.
Regular catcher Russell Martin, who is arbitration-eligible, made $5 million last year when he played a career-low 97 games because of a season-ending hip injury. His offensive numbers have slipped each of the last four summers, bottoming out last season when he hit .248 while striking out once every 5.4 at-bats.
There is nothing to indicate the Dodgers will be in the running for high-end outfielders such as Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth, but they could make a run at veteran catcher Miguel Olivo, who figures to come reasonably priced despite his solid season in Colorado.
Angels General Manager Tony Reagins also promised his team would be busy over the next few months following a season in which it failed to reach the postseason for just the second time in seven years.
“We’re going to be active. Whether it’s via free agency or trades,” he said. “We’re going to look at the opportunities and be aggressive when the opportunity presents itself.”
Among the Angels’ anticipated needs are a left fielder and base stealer — which could be the same person if he signs Crawford — as well as a third baseman and bullpen help.
Owner Arte Moreno is expected to approve a payroll jump of more than 10%, to about $135 million, but that may not be enough to fill every soft spot.
That’s because the Angels already have $93 million committed to 2011 contracts, including $11.4 million due Gary Matthews Jr., whom the team traded away last winter. Plus, Moreno will probably have to spend another $20 million to $25 million on arbitration-eligible players such as right-hander Jered Weaver and infielders Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick.
That leaves little wiggle room for the Angels to pursue their most obvious target, since Crawford is also likely to draw serious interest from deep-pocketed teams such as the Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, who could push the bidding to about $17 million a year for as many as seven seasons.
That could leave Werth and third baseman Adrian Beltre as more economical Plan B options, though neither addresses the team’s need for a baserunner to restart Manager Mike Scioscia’s aggressive style of play — a style the Angels found difficult to continue after Chone Figgins left for Seattle last winter.
What’s more, both Werth and Beltre are represented by agent Scott Boras, with whom the Angels had a falling out during the Mark Teixeira negotiations two years ago.
The Angels also are unsettled at the back of their bullpen after Fernando Rodney’s miserable September. An option there might be former Tampa Bay closer Rafael Soriano, who led the American League with 45 saves last season.
Times staff writer Dylan Hernandez contributed to this report.