1. Manny, Manny, Manny
For both marketing and baseball reasons, the Dodgers' most important decision this winter will be whether to re-sign All-Star outfielder Manny Ramirez. But if Ramirez returns, it will most likely be because the market that agent Scott Boras envisioned for him never materializes, not because the Dodgers were overly aggressive in their pursuit.
Though owner Frank McCourt has made it clear he wants Ramirez back next season, he's made it even clearer that he doesn't want to extend him a four-year contract or pay him significantly more than the $20 million he was paid by the Boston Red Sox this year.
Ramirez was offered a two-year contract by the Dodgers last month that was guaranteed for $45 million and included a team option that would've raised its total value to $60 million. Boras let the offer expire without touching base with the Dodgers. The two sides haven't spoken in more than a month and McCourt has strongly hinted that Ramirez wouldn't get a better offer from him if talks resume.
2. Plug holes in the infield
First baseman James Loney and second/third baseman Blake DeWitt are the only incumbent starting infielders under control of the Dodgers, who may lose shortstop Rafael Furcal and third baseman Casey Blake in free agency.
But like Ramirez, Furcal and Blake could find their way back to Los Angeles if they don't find the kind of deals they want on the open market. Furcal, who was paid $39 million over the last three seasons and wasn't offered arbitration by the Dodgers, turned down a four-year offer from Oakland Athletics worth $35-$40 million, according to FoxSports.com. Blake ended negotiations with the Minnesota Twins, according to the Minnesota Star Tribune.
If the Dodgers retain Ramirez's bat, they could be inclined to go with a less expensive, less offensively capable option at shortstop.
"We have players who can play major league defense at shortstop," General Manager Ned Colletti said, referring to in-house candidates Angel Berroa, Chin-lung Hu and Ivan DeJesus.
Trading for an infielder could be difficult, as players like Adrian Beltre, Garrett Atkins, Yunel Escobar and J.J. Hardy are either unavailable or would force the Dodgers to part with more players than they'd like.
3. Find a couple of arms
The Dodgers must add at least one starting pitcher to a rotation that currently includes only Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda and 20-year-old Clayton Kershaw. (September call-up James McDonald is expected to contend for a spot.) They haven't been in the mix for the biggest free-agent prize, CC Sabathia. They've made no attempt to re-sign Derek Lowe and don't appear to be interested in A.J. Burnett or Ben Sheets.
They could pursue Andy Pettitte if they don't commit the $20 million or so required to re-sign Ramirez. Otherwise, they'll probably look to add to the back end of the rotation by pursuing veteran free agents such as Randy Johnson or Jamie Moyer.