— The Dodgers have talked to Manager Don Mattingly about a new contract, the team’s chairman said Saturday.
“We’ve talked to Don a lot about what he does and doesn’t want right now,” Mark Walter said. “I think you might see something come up before the end of the year.”
Walter didn’t offer any details. Mattingly didn’t either. However, Mattingly confirmed talks had taken place.
Both parties were unclear about the seriousness of the discussions.
Mattingly is in the final year of a three-year contract. Not wanting his lame duck status to adversely affect his players, he asked the Dodgers last fall to exercise his option for 2014. His request was denied.
Mattingly will manage a team with a projected payroll of $230 million, which will be the highest in baseball history.
The Dodgers started their exhibition season with a 9-0 loss against the Chicago White Sox at Camelback Ranch on Saturday. Walter was at the game, as were fellow owners Todd Boehly and Peter Guber.
As much as the new owners already have spent on players, Walter said they could spend more, if necessary.
“I think in terms of who the players are, what we need and what our options are, rather than a total budget,” he said.
So, the Dodgers have the resources to make another significant move at the July 31 trade deadline?
“If we needed something, we do,” Walter said.
But Walter added, “I feel a lot better about this team right now than I did, say, June of last year.”
Since then, the Dodgers have added a number of high-profile players, including Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, Zack Greinke, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Hyun-Jin Ryu.
Walter would also like to sign Clayton Kershaw to a long-term extension. Kershaw is eligible for free agency at the end of the 2014 season.
“We’ve got him for two years, but we love Clayton,” Walter said. “I expect he’s going to be a Dodger for a long, long time.”
The responsibility of signing Kershaw to a new deal is team President Stan Kasten’s, Walter said.
Walter laughed when was asked about how co-owner Magic Johnson recently said that if Dodgers don’t reach the World Series, “it is not a good season for us.”
“That’s a very high expectation,” he said. “I just want to have a team that has got a lot of talent and plays its absolute best every night. I think if they do that, then I’ll be happy. But that will, over time, result in World Series championships. Baseball is not the kind of sport where you sign three great players and win the World Series every year.”
Walter was reminded that his team has several key players returning from major injuries, as well as question marks at shortstop and third base.
“I don’t think it will fall into the tank,” he said, adding that he had confidence in shortstop Ramirez and third baseman Luis Cruz.
Walter said he doesn’t think chemistry would be a problem, identifying Gonzalez, Ramirez, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier as potential clubhouse leaders.
“The leaders will identify themselves,” he said.
Walter is encouraged by how the Dodgers have sold more than the equivalent of 27,000 season tickets, setting a franchise record. When the team was owned by the O’Malley family, season tickets sales were capped at 27,000.
“We still have a month to go,” Walter said. “I’m very encouraged. It’s really a statement about the franchise, not so much about us. The Dodgers have great fans, they’re loyal.”