Budget constraints make Dodgers get creative

Budget constraints make Dodgers get creative

DALLAS -- The Dodgers weren't the "mystery team" on any top-tier free agent at the Winter Meetings that ended Thursday, and there was no mystery as to why.

Maybe next year, with a new owner and imminent broadcast riches, the Dodgers can go top shelf.

But cash-strapped and in bankruptcy this winter, general manager Ned Colletti set out with a modest plan to work within a slashed budget and executed it.

"I think we're in a decent spot now," he said Thursday, before heading home from the Meetings. "Our goal was to solidify the starting pitching. We felt the need to go into Spring Training with five experienced Major League starters. We wanted to make the middle infield as strong as we could and I think we took a positive step with [second baseman] Mark Ellis. We wanted to give [manager] Donnie [Mattingly] versatility for pitching matchups, and in my view, we did that. Look at the 25-man roster, we've got a pretty good bench."

He added veteran depth to the starting rotation, signing Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano for half the cost of Hiroki Kuroda's 2011 salary. He also laughed when asked if he would bid on Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish, then said no.

Colletti added versatility to the roster to allow for more managerial matchups, particularly against left-handed pitching with Jerry Hairston Jr., and all with a more focused eye on statistical analysis through new number cruncher Alex Tamin.

The bench includes utilitymen Hairston and Adam Kennedy and catcher Matt Treanor, to go with Tony Gwynn Jr. and Jerry Sands. Colletti said he still needs a right-handed reliever like free agent Mike MacDougal, has his eye on a free agent "professional" left-handed hitter and hasn't given up on a trade that went from hot to cold in a few hours when the other club filled its need elsewhere.

"I think we're better than we were at the end of the season and I think the last seven weeks (45-28) were a better indication than the first half (37-51)," Colletti said. "What we've done since has made us even better. But there's also more work to do. We're by far a finished product. Take the rest of the winter off? No."

Deals done: Signed lefty Capuano to a two-year, $10 million contract; signed right-hander Harang to a two-year, $12 million deal plus a mutual option. Signed Hairston to a two-year, $6 million contract. Traded left-hander Dana Eveland to Baltimore for Minor League lefty Jarret Martin and Minor League outfielder Tyler Henson.

Rule 5 Draft activity: The Dodgers lost left-hander Thomas Melgarejo to the Kansas City Royals in the Triple-A phase. Melgarejo pitched the 2011 regular and winter seasons in the Mexican League.

Goals accomplished: Added two targeted starting pitchers in Capuano and Harang with half the money it would have cost to re-sign Hiroki Kuroda. Addressed second-base defense with the signing of Mark Ellis. Bolstered bench versatility by signing right-handed hitting utilityman Jerry Hairston Jr.

Unfinished business: The club wants to restart talks with the Mets for Daniel Murphy.

Colletti still wants a veteran right-handed reliever and negotiations continue with MacDougal. He also has talked about adding a free-agent left-handed hitter.

GM's bottom line: "It's hard to say if we're on the road to make a deal or not at this point. We had one with some life to it, but the team filled its need in a different direction and still has the player we like. There are so many conversations here, you don't know if there's still life to them until everybody gets away and goes back to their city, and then you see if there's still momentum to take it to the next level of discussion." -- Colletti (The player he's talking about, according to a source, is Murphy.)

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