Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti acknowledged Friday that he is looking at free agents Torii Hunter, Andruw Jones and Aaron Rowand as potential upgrades in center field.
Colletti described his pursuits of the three players as being in their initial stages.
“We’re curious to know what their interest level is in playing here and what it’s going to take to get them here,” Colletti said. “They’re all accomplished in their own way. They all bring something to the table.”
Colletti talked about the free-agent and trade markets in a conference call introducing the latest coaches to be signed to Manager Joe Torre’s staff: bench coach Bob Schaefer, pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, first base coach Mariano Duncan and bullpen coach Ken Howell. The four coaches round out a staff that already included hitting coach Don Mattingly and third base coach Larry Bowa.
Colletti mentioned in the call that he has inquired about potential trades for a middle-of-the-order bat, but that he has been asked for too much in return. The Dodgers and Angels were mentioned earlier this week by a source as the teams most likely to acquire All-Star third baseman Miguel Cabrera from the Florida Marlins.
Signing a free agent, Colletti said, could make a player already on the roster expendable, thus improving their chances of making a trade.
The free-agent center fielder who most wants to play at Dodger Stadium next season might be Rowand, who grew up in Southern California. Rowand graduated from Glendora High in 1995 and played at Cal State Fullerton from 1996 to ’98.
“The Dodgers would be one of the teams Aaron would be most interested in playing for,” said Rowand’s agent, Craig Landis.
Rowand, 30, hit .309 with 27 home runs and 89 runs batted in for the Philadelphia Phillies last season. He played in the All-Star game and won a Gold Glove.
Landis said that he has been contacted by 10 or so teams about Rowand.
Hunter, 32, who won his seventh consecutive Gold Glove with the Minnesota Twins last season, also appears to be open to playing for the Dodgers next season.
“If we were not interested in a club, we would not look forward to having discussions with them,” said Hunter’s agent, Larry Reynolds. “We would entertain any discussions with the Dodgers.”
Jones, 30, slumped offensively last season, hitting only .222 for the Atlanta Braves, but he drove in 94 runs and won his 10th Gold Glove. Jones is represented by Scott Boras.
The addition of Jones, Hunter or Rowand probably would result in weak-armed Juan Pierre’s being moved from center field to left and a surplus of outfielders that would give the Dodgers increased flexibility to make a deal.
Colletti did not discuss Cabrera or any other individual potential trade target, but said conversations about trading for an offensive reinforcement have so far been “limited.”
“Any player that you would consider to have that type of ability -- middle-of-the-order bat, run producer -- as predicted, the cost of our prospects, at least in our minds, far exceeds the value of the one player,” he said. “We’re talking about not one prospect or two prospects, but in some cases, three or four prospects.
“Our prospects aren’t necessarily sitting in double A or triple A. Our prospects are really no longer prospects. They’re big league players. Those are the players that continually get asked about.”
That group includes first baseman James Loney, outfielder Matt Kemp, starting pitcher Chad Billingsley and top pitching prospect Clayton Kershaw.
“Right now, trade-wise, it’s a lot of bait-and-switch,” Colletti said. “We thought we had a deal with someone the other day, but they got cold feet at the end. It’s that time of year.”
Colletti said that if Alex Rodriguez had shown “a sincere interest” in playing somewhere other than New York, “we would’ve been in the mix.”
Torre said the coaches he hired for the positions that were filled Friday were the only ones he interviewed.
Schaefer, who twice managed the Kansas City Royals on an interim basis and was the bench coach of the Oakland Athletics last season, was recommended to Torre by Mattingly. Schaefer managed Mattingly in the New York Yankees’ minor league system.
Duncan and Honeycutt are holdovers from Grady Little’s staff. Torre was already familiar with Duncan, who played for him on the Yankees team that won the 1996 World Series.
Of Honeycutt and Howell, Torre said, “They seem to have a feel for who the players are. A lot of their comments were similar, which I found interesting.”
Howell, who pitched for the Dodgers from 1984 to ’88, spent the last five seasons as a pitching coach in the Dodgers’ minor league system.
Colletti said that special coach Manny Mota and bullpen catcher Rob Flippo would be back next season. He said one more coach would be added to the bullpen.
The Dodgers parted ways with third base coach Rich Donnelly and bullpen coach Dan Warthen.
Rick Ragazzo was hired as a special assistant to the general manager. Ragazzo spent the previous 17 seasons with the San Francisco Giants.