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Dodgers could be in for a barren winter

General Manager Ned Colletti has less cash than usual to add the tools the team will need for next season.

December 04, 2011|By Dylan Hernandez
  • Free agent utility player Jerry Hairston Jr. might prove cost effective for the Dodgers this offseason.
Free agent utility player Jerry Hairston Jr. might prove cost effective… (Jamie Squire / Getty Images )

Before the next owner is in place and starts promising to restore the team to its former glory, it looks as though the Dodgers will have to endure another barren winter.

The Dodgers have plenty of needs. But with departing owner Frank McCourt preparing to sell, they have even less cash than usual to spend on players. The combined 2012 salaries of the players on their opening-day roster are expected to be less than $90 million.

Ideally, the Dodgers would be looking to add a middle-of-the-lineup bat, a couple of middle-of-the-rotation starting pitchers and a veteran catcher at baseball's winter meetings.

Don't count on any of that to happen.

Unless the Dodgers unexpectedly make a trade, their winter shopping season is pretty much over.

Despite limiting his free-agent expenditures to modestly priced role players, General Manager Ned Colletti is figuratively down to his last pocketful of nickels.

Colletti will continue to walk up and down bargain aisle in search of more spare parts, perhaps a utility man such as Jerry Hairston Jr. or a middle reliever. He might look for a cheaper alternative to reserve outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr., who is eligible for salary arbitration and could earn a couple of million dollars if the Dodgers tender him a contract.

The five free agents Colletti has already signed addressed what he described as the Dodgers' basic needs this off-season.

He wanted the lineup to be more capable of hitting left-handed pitching, so he brought back right-handed-hitting outfielder Juan Rivera (one year, $4.5 million). He wanted to improve the infield defense, so he signed veteran second baseman Mark Ellis (two years, $8.75 million). And he couldn't afford Hiroki Kuroda and needed someone to replace him in the rotation, so he added Chris Capuano (two years, $10 million).

Without a big-name addition to point to, Colletti continues to trumpet the final two months of last season as a source of optimism. With a lineup that wasn't much different than it will be next season, the Dodgers went from 14 games under .500 on July 6 to finishing with an 82-79 record.

"That doesn't lead me to be discouraged," Colletti said. "I think we should be better."

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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