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With 14 free agents, Colletti will be busy

With 14 free agents, Colletti will be busy

LAS VEGAS -- Not implying that the location had anything to do with it, but Joe Torre suspended his decade-long boycott of the Winter Meetings for the one that starts Monday at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

In fact, just to make sure they are properly settled in, Torre and Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti arrived in this oasis on Saturday, two days early. You can never be too prepared.

Good thing, because there's work to do. Colletti has 14 free agents to replace. The names of those that had the greatest impact on this year's club are well known -- Manny Ramirez, Derek Lowe, Casey Blake, Brad Penny, Rafael Furcal, Joe Beimel, Chan Ho Park and Greg Maddux.

Fan focus has been on Ramirez, but when he did not respond to the club's two-year offer, it was withdrawn and Colletti moved on, focusing on bringing back Furcal and Blake to clarify the infield.

Colletti has remained optimistic that Furcal ultimately will return. Chances improved Friday when the A's withdrew a four-year contract offer that Furcal had not accepted. The Dodgers want Furcal to share the risk after back surgery with a shorter term pact that includes incentives.

Meanwhile, Colletti said he's hoping to replace some of the club's free agents with young, internal prospects, whether it's James McDonald or Scott Elbert on the pitching staff or possibly Chin-lung Hu or Ivan DeJesus Jr. in the infield. Gone from the starting rotation are Lowe, Penny and Maddux, and from the bullpen Beimel and Park.

Los Angeles wants to add a starter and reliever, at least one of them a veteran that can serve as a leader of a very young staff.

Comments from the highest levels of the organization indicate there's a real concern over how the worldwide economic crisis will dampen next year's revenues. In other words, the $60 million in salaries coming off the 2008 payroll might not all go back onto the '09 payroll.

With a war chest squirreled away, the Dodgers would be in position to snag a short-term deal for a free agent that otherwise would have expected more (like Ramirez, for example).

But unlike the past two winters -- when Colletti aggressively landed Furcal, Jason Schmidt and Andruw Jones -- there's no indication they're ready to outbid any team for any player. In fact, they're just as likely to make their biggest splash with a trade, even though they don't appear to have a real surplus in any one area.

The week's schedule includes:

On Monday, results of pre-1943 and post-1942 Hall of Fame Veterans' Committee ballots will be announced. Among candidates with Dodgers ties are Gil Hodges, Maury Wills, Dick Allen, Al Oliver, Bill Dahlen, Wes Farrell and Torre.

On Tuesday, the winner of the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasters will be announced.

On Wednesday, the Spink Award winner will be announced. The three finalists are Bob Elliott of the Ottawa Citizen, Nick Peters of the Sacramento Bee and Dave Van Dyck of the Chicago Tribune. There also will be an announcement from MLB regarding the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

On Thursday, the Rule 5 Draft will be held as the Winter Meetings conclude.

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

{"content":["winter_meetings" ] }
{"content":["winter_meetings" ] }