INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- A second day of talks at the General Managers Meetings left Ned Colletti thinking he might be able to trade for a starting pitcher after all. "It might be a touch more possible, but you never know with that until you're done," said the Dodgers general manager, who added that he also spoke to clubs about acquiring "some players who play multiple positions." Colletti wants a fourth outfielder with center-field skills, a right-handed hitter who can play first base and a left-handed reliever. But more than anything, he wants one more starting pitcher. The trade target mentioned most often has been Tampa Bay's James Shields.
The most likely free-agent pitchers on Dodgers' radar are Zack Greinke, followed by Ryan Dempster, Hiroki Kuroda and Anibal Sanchez. Greinke would cost the Dodgers a fortune in salary and years, while Kuroda would cost a first-round Draft pick because the Yankees made him a qualifying offer. Dempster seems to be the best fit, since Colletti did just about everything possible to acquire the right-hander at the Trade Deadline but couldn't meet the demands of the Cubs, who dealt him to Texas. Another offseason question is what happens to the left side of the infield or, in other words, where does Hanley Ramirez (want to) play? "We're fine with Hanley playing shortstop, but he's got to be better [defensively]," said Colletti, reiterating that Ramirez might play the position in winter ball and might accept tutoring from infield coach Tim Wallach in Arizona before Spring Training. "We can wait until Spring Training to decide that. Part of the decision is based on Dee Gordon and Luis Cruz. Health aside, there are multiple issues. We'll let spring decide it." Gordon, coming off thumb surgery, is playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic. Colletti said his defense there initially was solid but has recently tailed off with some bad throws. "Hanley said he'll do anything you want when he came over," he said. "We just want the best team offensively and defensively. You can't discount defense, especially when you rely on pitching." Colletti said he spoke with Andre Ethier's agent after last week's rumor surfaced that the club was willing to deal the outfielder, and the subject hasn't come up again. He added that Matt Kemp's rehab from shoulder surgery is progressing; Clayton Kershaw has had "zero problems" with the right hip that troubled him in September; Ted Lilly has begun playing catch after shoulder surgery; and Chad Billingsley has had "zero issues" with his partially torn elbow ligament after facing hitters last week. Billingsley will be shut down and resume winter throwing on his normal schedule. Colletti also said that, at this point, he's satisfied with A.J. Ellis as his starting catcher and rookie Tim Federowicz as the backup. Acquiring a veteran backup, Colletti said, is not a priority. Colletti said he has a "rough idea" of what his 2013 payroll will be ($184 million already and counting), "but it's debatable depending on who becomes available." A year ago, he was looking at a $90 million payroll, but with new ownership "I haven't been discouraged or told not to consider any player" because of salary. "We've still got a team and roster to balance. You can't just collect [players]," he said. "But we've been encouraged to think out of the box." When told he might have the highest payroll in baseball, he said: "We'd rather play with a full deck."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.