Dodgers look to add another starting pitcher

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The Dodgers are expected to reach out to free-agent pitcher Zack Greinke at some point this off-season, perhaps even at the general managers’ meetings that start in Indian Wells on Wednesday.

General Manager Ned Colletti’s insistence on adding a high-caliber starter to complement ace Clayton Kershaw signals that the Dodgers are thinking beyond the 2013 regular season. If the Dodgers add Greinke or another All-Star-level arm, it would be to make a run to the World Series.

Even with how their roster looks today, the Dodgers will probably enter next season as the favorites to win their division.

The San Francisco Giants have won two of the last three World Series, and their pitching staff makes them tough to beat in a best-of-seven series. But the Giants might not possess the offensive firepower to keep pace over 162 games with a Dodgers lineup that is expected to include Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, Andre Ethier, Hanley Ramirez and Carl Crawford.

Provided these players hit the way they’re expected to hit — as opposed to what they did late last season — the Dodgers already have enough pitching to win the West.

The Dodgers posted a team 3.34 earned-run average this year, second-best in the National League, and their staff remains largely intact, including the bullpen.

With Kershaw and Chad Billingsley avoiding off-season surgeries, the Dodgers theoretically have five healthy veteran starters, including Josh Beckett, Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang. Ted Lilly is recovering from shoulder surgery and could also be a factor.

But in the playoffs, quality is more important than quantity. Two top-shelf starters can carry a team to the World Series.

The Dodgers have one in Kershaw. They might have another in Billingsley, but his elbow and inconsistent track record make him difficult to count on.

Beyond that, the Dodgers have what appears to be a group of solid back-end starters. Which is why Colletti probably will be shopping for more pitching.

Greinke is clearly the top of the free-agent pitching class but is likely to command the kind of nine-figure deal the Dodgers might be hesitant to give to a pitcher. “Pitchers break,” Chairman Mark Walter has said.

The Dodgers also figure to inquire about the quality arms available on the second tier of the market, among them Hiroki Kuroda, Kyle Lohse, Ryan Dempster and Anibal Sanchez.

But some baseball executives believe this part of the market will be particularly competitive and costly this winter, as there are several teams with money that are looking for pitching.

If that is the case, the Dodgers’ best opportunity to land a No. 2 or 3 starter could be on the trade market.

James Shields, who will earn $10.5 million next season pitching for the small-market Tampa Bay Rays, could be a target.

The Dodgers’ interest in pitching has led to rumblings in baseball circles that they might be open to trading Ethier, something Colletti said “hasn’t been discussed.”