Dodgers’ Ned Colletti might be star-gazing in off-season
Reporting from Phoenix — When considering whether to sign a free-agent position player to a long-term contract, what would be a greater cause for concern: a player being overweight or a player being old?
Ned Colletti, the Dodgers’ general manager, laughed.
“Next question,” he said.
The question was prompted by Colletti’s intimation that the bankrupt Dodgers could make a run at Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols this winter.
Fielder is a large man. Pujols will turn 32 in January. Both players will be free agents this winter and are expected to receive nine-figure deals.
Under Frank McCourt’s ownership, the Dodgers haven’t shopped in the high end of the free-agent market. Colletti said that could change, even if the player they want could cost them more than $150 million. Citing baseball’s tampering rules, Colletti refused to talk about any specific potential free agents.
“If there’s a player out there like that, we’ll certainly see,” Colletti said.
Parties involved in the Dodgers’ bankruptcy proceedings have said the team’s status as a company in bankruptcy shouldn’t prevent the club from offering big contracts this winter. But in an interview with The Times this month, Rob Manfred, Major League Baseball’s executive vice president for labor relations, didn’t say whether the league might challenge a nine-figure contract, or whether he believed any of the Dodgers’ creditors might do so.
Colletti said he would be more open to offering a long-term contract to such a player than he has been in the past. In Colletti’s time with the Dodgers, only one player has received a contract longer than three years — the since-departed Juan Pierre, who signed a five-year, $45-million contract before the 2007 season.
Colletti said he is “very conscious” of the Dodgers’ declining attendance figures. For the first time ever, the Dodgers were outdrawn by the neighboring Angels.
The Dodgers sold 2,935,139 tickets this season, marking the first time in 16 years their announced attendance was fewer than 3 million.
Asked whether the Dodgers would consider signing a star-caliber player as a goodwill gesture toward an increasingly disgruntled fan base, he said, “It can be taken that way. But you’re still going to have to win.”
Colletti said he understands Los Angeles is a star-driven city.
“You know what?” he said. “I think it initially helps, but you have to win too. I think the ultimate situation is to win with a star attraction. If you add star attractions and don’t win, that’s going to have a shelf life to it.
“For me, the most important part is the winning part. If we can bring in another star-type, carrier-type of player to add to it, to help our chances to win, I think you have a double effect. You help your chances to win and you’re bringing another star player to L.A.”
If the Dodgers pursue Fielder or Pujols, they would probably have to act fast. They have until Dec. 12 to decide whether to tender a contract to James Loney, who, like Fielder and Pujols, is a first baseman. If they let go of Loney and fail to land either Fielder or Pujols, they could start next season without an established first baseman on their roster.
In other news, Colletti said he expected the entire coaching staff to return next season.
Bench coach Trey Hillman, first base coach Davey Lopes, third base coach Tim Wallach and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt are already under contract.
The team is closing in on new deals with hitting coach Dave Hansen and bullpen coach Ken Howell.
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