As the Dodgers mull options for adding punch to their offense, the window to sign one of their top targets, free-agent outfielder Cliff Floyd, is rapidly closing.
Cliff Floyd Sr., the father of the slugger, said Tuesday that if the Dodgers don't sign Floyd before Thursday, his son will accept an arbitration offer from the Boston Red Sox.
Dodger General Manager Dan Evans and Floyd's agent, Seth Levinson, have explored creative ways for the Dodgers to fit Floyd, 30, in their budget without surpassing the new $117-million luxury tax threshold.
The Dodgers have about $4.5 million to spend on a hitter and, possibly, a left-handed reliever, and Floyd, who would move to first base if he signs with Los Angeles, is believed to be seeking a multiyear contract in the $8-million-a-year range.
Evans, who is also negotiating with free-agent first baseman Fred McGriff, would need to move more payroll to accommodate Floyd, and he has explored trades involving pitcher Andy Ashby, who will make $8 million next season.
But there has been minimal interest in Ashby, and those willing to discuss the veteran right-hander have asked the Dodgers to eat as much as half of Ashby's contract, hardly an appetizing proposition for Evans.
The Dodgers are also hesitant to trade Ashby because he provides some rotation protection should injury-plagued starters Kevin Brown and Darren Dreifort hit snags again next season.
Evans has also explored trades involving infielder Alex Cora and reliever Giovanni Carrara, arbitration-eligible players who could command about $2.5 million combined in 2004.
But Cora can't be easily discarded. He hit .291 with 28 runs batted in in 258 at-bats last season, providing an attractive alternative to slumping shortstop Cesar Izturis and better defense than Mark Grudzielanek at second. Cora could win the second base job outright or platoon with rookie Joe Thurston in 2003.
While Floyd, who hit .288 with 28 home runs and 79 RBIs last season with the Florida Marlins, Montreal Expos and Red Sox, and McGriff, who hit .273 with 30 homers and 103 RBIs for the Chicago Cubs, remain atop the Dodgers' list, Evans is also exploring a trade for another outfielder. That deal, if consummated, would push Shawn Green from right field to first base.
The Dodgers have inquired about Pittsburgh left fielder Brian Giles, but the Pirates seem reluctant to part with him.
"We haven't got to the point where we're isolated on one guy yet," Evans said.
McGriff, 39, is an attractive option because he's a proven runproducer who is willing to sign a one-year deal for a salary probably in the $5-million range, and the Dodgers would not lose a first-round draft pick if they sign him. Signing Floyd would cost the Dodgers that pick.
"The biggest factor is how a guy fits into our payroll structure," Evans said. "But we're also looking at position, age, whether he's a true middle-of-the-lineup bat, whether he'd cost us a draft pick, whether we'd have to move another guy to accommodate him. It's important before we make a move to think it through, because we're not going to get a second chance."