Inside Baseball: Dodgers chase stars as cuts may have to wait; more news –

A Los Angeles Dodgers official was overheard to say at the recent owners meeting in Dallas that they’d like to move their payroll to $200 million from a record $300 million, and co-owner Todd Boehly told the Los Angeles Times that they’d like to get it “much closer to $200 million” than $300 million.

Whichever it may be, it won’t be easy. Not this year, anyway.

The Dodgers appear to have made their top target their own star starter Zack Greinke, who is believed to be in the market for a $30 million-a-year deal, and word is out they are also determined to upgrade their so-so bullpen and interested in adding a hitter, as well.

So there is some natural skepticism about whether $200 million, or even $250 million, is realistic. At least for this year, anyway.

The Dodgers had an excellent team in 2015, and if not for Daniel Murphy, a possible LA hitting target this winter, turning into Superman for a fortnight and almost singlehandedly wiping them out, they probably would have made the World Series (actually, they could have easily made the Fall Classic the last two years if not for bad luck/timing). They have their history of not having won it all since that magical 1988, a long stretch for the storied franchise that’s often made the playoffs since. They also on occasion spent like a Kardashian (i.e., Mat Latos, Michael Morse and $10 million for Dan Haren to pitch elsewhere), creating extra skepticism about the payroll claims.

“They’re not reducing their payroll,” one skeptical GM from a rival team whose payroll is dwarfed by that of the Dodgers.

Well, maybe not this year.

The Dodgers do have a lot of smart people, and despite a misstep here or there in year one of the new regime, no one should assume they aren’t about to go on a winning run of moves. Andrew Friedman was a veritable Houdini as the leader of the Tampa Bay Rays, and perhaps he and his brainy breathren only needed a one-year adjustment.

They are certainly off to a nice start this winter by all accounts with the hiring of the beloved ex-Dodger/ex-UCLA Bruin Dave Roberts to be their new manager. It came down to Roberts and farm director Gabe Kapler, an intense analytics guy seen as the early favorite of the Friedman front office. It may never be known if the higher-ups helped steer it a bit Roberts’ way, but co-owner Mark Walter and team president Stan Kasten did meet with the two finalists the weekend before Roberts got the gig. (Word is, some players called in to support Roberts’ candidacy, as well.)

Roberts is a wonderful story, Three key things to know about him: He overcame cancer, he is the author of the key steal of the Red Sox’s magical run of 2004 and he “understands the nuances of the game,” as one Dodgers person put it, meaning he’s a bright man who can mix with the studious sorts that run this front office.

Meantime, there is a lot of work to do, starting with Greinke, who appears to be their clear choice, even above David Price, who has a long Tampa history with Friedman. They’ve talked to the Braves about a trade for Shelby Miller, who has a steep price tag as he’s still three years removed from free agency. Murphy would be a nice add to the lineup, but it’d be interesting to see if maybe they aim even higher.

For the pen, they are looking closely at setup man extraordinaire Darren O’Day, who is being pursued by the Braves, Nats and others and seeks four years. “He’ll probably get it from the Dodgers,” one rival GM predicts, paying no heed to the reduction rumblings.

The Dodgers also were connected here to star closer Aroldis Chapman, and have looked at many other relievers, as well, since their 19th-best pen was a clear disappointment. Chapman is the fascinating one, of course, since the Dodgers already have a star closer in Kenley Jansen. Ryan Madson, a Southern California product who resurrected his career in 2015 after a couple years away, is yet another who’d fit. The Dodgers have already contacted Madson.

Meanwhile, they’ve already committed upwards of $80 million to international signings (including penalties), enhancing their prospect stash to the point of jealousy and upset on the part of rivals. What galls the others: They already had a productive minor-league system, with top pitchers Julio Urias and Jose DeLeon within a year of bolstering the big-league team.

Many suspect Yasiel Puig could become available, but only if someone offers a top young starter, something that isn’t likely to happen considering his abysmal, injury-wracked 2015 season. Others say Carl Crawford is available and also wouldn’t be shocked if Andre Ethier becomes available, too. But while there’s a lot of money coming off the books, it’s still hard to see them getting anywhere near the lowly $200 million figure.

Responding to a question about word of the payroll coming down, Kasten responded, “I never spoke about the payroll. And I don’t intend to ever talk about payroll. Our goal, articulated on day one, was to get to be self-sustaining through our minor-league player development system. When we become that kind of team we will naturally be a younger team, but the foremost goal remains to be a better team.”

Fair enough. If a goal is really to get down to $200 million, it certainly isn’t the main goal. At least not today.

Around the Majors …

Team News

Arizona Diamondbacks News

Shelby Miller has been a target of theirs, but 20 teams have checked in on him, including also the rival Giants and Dodgers.

Baltimore Orioles News

The Orioles are first trying to re-sign their own Chris Davis, and as was mentioned here weeks ago, owner Peter Angelos has taken personal interest. It’s interesting to see them still in the mix, as they well understand David will approach $150 million, if not beat it. But should they fail to keep Davis, they will look at other free agents. Alex Gordon is someone who also interests the Orioles, wh could look at left field, right field, first base and DH coincidentally, those are four of the five positions Davis can play). Gordon is a star but would be expected to get a shorter term than outfielders such as Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes and especially Jason Heyward … There have been suggestions the Orioles would like to bring back Gerardo Parra, but word is they weren’t all that impressed by him after acquiring him last summer. So that would be a surprise … Word going around is that Wei-Yin Chen seeks $85 million for five years. The Orioles do like him … They also like Yovani Gallardo, and have reached out to him … The Orioles were slightly surprised by mat Wieters’ decision to accept the $15.8-million qualifying offer, but they are looking on the bright side, understanding he is probably in for major improvement in his second year after Tommy john surgery. So far Wieters’ decision doesn’t appear to have affected their other pursuits.

Boston Red Sox News

New president Dave Dombrowski did a nice job to get Craig Kimbrel, one of the game’s two or three best closers, for a very good prospect package that still didn’t include any of arguably the team’s top four young players (Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Rusney Castillo and Blake Swihart) or top four prospects (second baseman Yoan Moncada, third baseman Rafael Devers and pitchers Anderson Espinoza and Michael Kopech), and leaving money to spend on a top starter. Recent speculation is that Dombrowski might make a play for David Price, who he acquired for Detroit in the summer of 2014. Greinke also would be great, of course, and he has ties to Red Sox exec Allard Baird, who drafted him in Kansas City. Although, most believe he’d prefer to stay in the N.L. (aIthough he thrived with the Angels and Royals) … Christian Vazquez is expected back in early to midseason … As Dombrowski said, it still hasn’t been decided whether Hanley Ramirez will play winter ball.

Cincinnati Reds News

Aroldis Chapman remains the biggest star most likely to go in trade soon.

Detroit Tigers News

Francisco Rodriguez was a nice add, but they probably aren’t done with the pen … Gallardo is believed to be on their radar.

Houston Astros News

The Astros are looking to bulk up their pen. They were one of the main pursuers last winter of Andrew Miller, but it still seems unlikely the Yankees will ultimately deal him. One alternative could be Drew Storen, who could share the closer role with Luke Gregerson.

Kansas City Royals News

Kansas City seems willing to at least talk to star catcher Sal Perez about reworking his deal. No team is anxious to do that, but if anyone deserves a reworking it is Perez. No one works harder or catches more games, and no one has a worse long-term contract. Royals people may point out that he will be paid similarly in his first five years to two other star catchers Brian McCann and Yadier Molina, but what makes his deal especially onerous is three option years that figure to be worth a fracture of market for a superstar catcher. Perez couldn’t have timed a renegotiation/extension any better, as he was the World Series MVP … Johnny Cueto may be getting overlooked in free agency. Had he been a free agent after last year, he would have received a massive deal, and it seems he still should. As noted on MLB Network, he has the third highest ERA plus since 2012, at 140, behind Clayton Kershaw‘s incredible 176 and Greinke’s 142.

Los Angeles Angels News

Los Angeles acquired the game’s best defensive shortstop in Andrelton Simmons (though Adeiny Hechavarria and Brandon Crawford are also exceptional) and beefed up the catching ranks with Geovany Soto, but they still need to look at left field and third base. They’ve talked a bit to their own David Freese for third. Left field could be the big one, though, as a big lefty bat could make them a super team. Davis, Gordon and Jason Heyward all would fit … Bud Black and Ron Roenicke are great hires as special assistant to the GM and third-base coach, respectively. It’s like they’re getting the old gang back. Both will manage again at some point, though.

New York Mets News

The Mets are looking hard at Ben ZobristDenard Span and Parra may also be on their radar.

New York Yankees News

Price and Greinke still do not appear to be on the Yankees’ radar. They are interested in acquiring a starting pitcher, however … Ivan Nova is available in trade, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports.

Oakland A’s News

Folks were impressed by Oakland’s acquisition of Liam Hendriks, who’s great in one-inning stints, for Jesse Chavez. Hendriks posted 71 strikeouts, 11 walks and a 2.14 FIP last season. His ERA was 2.92. In four previous seasons, it had never been below 5 … Some weren’t impressed they spent $6 million on Rich Hill after just six starts last year (albeit six very good starts). “A million a start,” one rival exec noted.

Pittsburgh Pirates News

Pedro Alvarez, seeking a change of scenery, has told folks he believes this is the right time for a trade. The Pirates probably would agree if they can find the right trade partner. Alvarez could hit perhaps 35-plus home runs in the right park. Camden Yards would work.

St. Louis Cardinals News

The Cardinals have reached out to Ben Zobrist, sources say. While there are said to be as many as 20 teams in the mix, they are believed to be among the more interested, as they love his versatility, especially on the infield … As was mentioned in this space previously, Chris Davis is also on the radar of the Cardinals.

San Diego Padres News

Padres GM A.J. Preller traveled to Japan where he scouted infielder Nobuhiro Matsuda, who can be an interesting play in a fairly thin third base market … Mark McGwire would appear to be on a managerial track after his expected appointment as the Padres’ new bench coach becomes official. Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union Tribune first reported of the possibility.

San Francisco Giants News

More and more people expect the Giants to be the Dodgers’ big competition for Greinke. Giants people are said to love his ability. The Giants have said they are playing close to the vest this year, though … The Giants are believed to have money (most teams playing it close to the vest do). Yoenis Cespedes would fit them nicely … Congrats to Brandon Crawford on his $75-million, six-year extension. The breakdown: $1.2M signing bonus, salaries of $5.8M, $8M, $15M, $15M, $15M, $15M, $15M. It was first reported by Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) … RIP to alltime great scout George Genovese who died this week at 93. Genovese, a Giants scout who covered Southern California, signed for the Giants Bobby Bonds, Jack Clark, Chili Davis, Dave Kingman, Garry Maddox, Gary Mathews and Matt Williams, as well as Randy Moffitt, the brother of Billie Jean King.

Seattle Mariners News

Robinson Cano doesn’t mind it in Seattle and actually appreciates how he has been treated by the Mariners, but he would be willing to willing to waive his no-trade clause to return to the Yankees. That should be obvious as we’ve long known that Cano was willing to sign back with the Yankees for something under the $240-million deal it took to get him to go nearly 3,000 miles west (the Yankees only offered $175 million, however). In any case, multiple sources say there is nothing to the Cano-for-Jacob Ellsbury rumor. Whatever anyone thinks of Cano’s 2015 season, it’s hard to see Seattle going for that one at this stage … Seattle is believed to be willing to go to around $24 million or so over two years for Hisashi Iwakuma, who rejected their $15.8-million qualifying offer … Chris Ianetta did well to get $4.25 million guaranteed after hitting .188 last year with the Angels. New GM Jerry Dipoto is gathering a lot of ex-Angels, and a few seem to be ones that didn’t necessarily always see eye-to-eye with Angels manager Mike Scioscia, a combatant of Dipoto’s as well. Ianetta would certainly fit into that category, according to Angels connected sources, as would new Mariners manager Scott Servais … The Mariners have been talking to the Marlins about CF Marcell Ozuna. More on that here.

Texas Rangers News

Texas is expected to talk to the agents of Rougned Odor at the Winter Meetings about a possible extension. Few played better than him once he returned from a brief minor-league hiatus.

Toronto Blue Jays News

The writers got it right (again) with the election of Josh Donaldson as MVP. Mike Trout was fantastic, but Donaldson had the greatest impact in the American League. If the story of the season were written, Donaldson would be in the first few paragraphs.

Washington Nationals News

The Nats will likely rebuild most or all of their bullpen by the time the winter’s over. Chapman would make sense for them … Of Jonathan Papelbon, one executive said, “You can’t trade him. He’s untradeable.” The reality is, of course, that almost anyone good can be traded. In this case, it might be best to send him to whatever team has the least media. Tampa, perhaps? … NL MVP Bryce Harper looks like a future Yankee from here.


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