Dodgers' deal for Manny unlikely

Signs pointing away from deal for Ramirez

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Dodgers seem more likely to acquire Andruw Jones, Vernon Wells or no power hitter at all than they do Manny Ramirez, judging from early Winter Meetings returns.

A face-to-face session between the general managers of the Dodgers and Red Sox illustrated the two are not compatible trade partners for Ramirez as long as the Red Sox insist on four of the best Dodgers prospects from a group that includes pitchers Jonathan Broxton, Scott Elbert and Chad Billingsley, infielder James Loney and outfielder Matt Kemp.

Ned Colletti said his meeting with Theo Epstein was "lighthearted and preliminary." While Colletti implied that the impact of adding Ramirez's bat in the Dodgers' lineup "is something we're thinking about," the hurdles are numerous.

In addition to the talent the Dodgers would send to Boston, they would need to commit $60 million or more in a sweetened contract for Ramirez to waive his trade veto. They would be getting a player who will be 35 next year, who is a defensive liability, who missed a month last season with a knee injury and can be a handful to manage, even for mild-mannered Grady Little, who had Ramirez in Boston and is eager to try again.

Of course, Little also is a huge fan of Jones from their days in Atlanta's Minor League system. Jones is eligible for free agency after the 2007 season and his agent is Scott Boras, the agent for J.D. Drew, who blindsided the Dodgers by exercising an option to opt out of his contract, leaving Colletti without Drew's 100 RBIs or the ability to deal him.

As for Ramirez, if the Red Sox are waiting out Colletti, they haven't been watching him work. He's more likely to raise anchor and let the ship sail before the Red Sox lower their demands, even though he's been outspoken about the desire to add a power hitter to the middle of the Dodgers lineup.

"I'm an impatient kind of guy," Colletti said. "I like to know what we have and what we need."

Colletti might be posturing to flush out a coveted target, but he hinted that attitude applies as well to free-agent pitcher Jason Schmidt, who lately has been Colletti's highest priority.

"He's been real quiet," Colletti said of Schmidt, who is also being pursued by his hometown Seattle Mariners. "We've had more conversations with other agents for other pitchers. It's their sense of timing. I don't know what they're waiting for."

If Schmidt is waiting to slot in behind the unsigned Barry Zito, Colletti could go back to Greg Maddux first, even though he did not offer the future Hall of Famer salary arbitration last Friday.

He said that decision was made after much internal debate and reflected more an assessment of the risk of Maddux accepting the offer (as he once did with Atlanta) and pursuing a salary through arbitration at $12 million to $14 million. Colletti said he's still interested in bringing back Maddux for one year, although the pitcher is seeking two years. San Diego also wants Maddux.

Maddux is a six-inning pitcher, but who isn't these days? Colletti said much offseason discussion has focused on coaxing more innings out of Dodgers starting pitchers, who completed only one game in 2006.

"If your bullpen is up in the sixth inning," he said, "that's not conducive to trying to win."

For all of the buzz about Ramirez (most of it fueled from outside the Dodgers organization), Colletti spends more time making a case for winning without a major hitting acquisition.

"We struggled with that a year ago and, if you look it up, we scored a lot of runs," he said. "While there's a whole lot of clamor for a glamour bat and that type of run producer, it doesn't rule out scoring a lot of runs with speed, with clutch hitting and if you pitch better you don't have to score as many runs."

Leading off? Colletti indicated the Dodgers are thinking of leading off their batting order with center fielder Juan Pierre.

"I'd probably say Juan Pierre if it's Opening Day, but it's up to Grady and I'm not Grady and it's not Opening Day," Colletti said, indicating that Rafael Furcal, last year's leadoff hitter, is capable of batting in other spots, including No. 3.

"I think he could be more than a leadoff hitter," he said. "You can't rule that out."

Closer close: Colletti said contract negotiations with reliever Takashi Saito, who set a franchise rookie record with 24 saves, are progressing. "We hope to have something done in the next few days with him," he said.

Saito, who signed a $500,000 Minor League contract after starring in Japan, does not have enough service time to be eligible for arbitration or free agency.

Lieberthal close, too: The Dodgers could announce the signing of Mike Lieberthal as backup catcher as soon as Tuesday. Lieberthal played only 67 games with Philadelphia this year because of stints on the disabled list for knee and hip injuries, and after the season underwent surgery to repair a torn lower abdominal muscle.

In 2001, he required a complete right knee reconstruction and had a cadaver anterior cruciate ligament transplant.

Toby Hall, acquired from Tampa Bay during the season, has generated some trade interest. The Dodgers have until Dec. 12 to tender him a contract that retains his arbitration rights, non-tendering him to make him a free agent or signing him.

Greg Miller update: New farm director De Jon Watson said that left-hander Greg Miller, whose promising career was interrupted by two years of shoulder problems, is healthy and expected to remain a reliever, although there has been some discussion of allowing him to start.

Watson said he is still a week away from announcing his Minor League coaching staff. It has been confirmed that Lorenzo Bundy will manage Triple-A Las Vegas and P.J. Carey will be the Minor League field coordinator.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.