LOS ANGELES -- Baseball's winter meetings start Monday in Orlando, and Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti figures to be a popular man at the four-day swap meet. The primary focus will be on four Dodgers outfielders.
The Dodgers have Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Yasiel Puig all under contract for next season. Actually, all four are under contract through at least 2017, and since the National League doesn't have a designated hitter that means one of the four would be sitting each game.
But that really is only a theoretical problem at this point, since the quartet hasn't yet been fully healthy together. Puig debuted on June 3, and in the final 107 games of the season the Dodgers had the foursome all healthy and active for all of two games. In each of those two games, Kemp got hurt and was unable to finish the contest.
"People have called us on our outfielders. They have called us on all of them," Colletti said on a conference call Saturday. "We've gotten a variety of responses to that. Some pretty interesting, some kicking the tires and not anything we're going to consider going forward unless we have a change of heart."
With the flurry of free agent activity and trades in the last week, the number of big name free agents is dwindling heading into the winter meetings. Shin-Soo Choo is the marquee outfielder remaining on the free agent market. Nelson Cruz is also an option, and though calling him an outfielder is technically correct it is a stretch. If Cruz were an outfielder, people would remember David Freese as that guy who flew out to end the 2011 World Series rather than an October hero.
But the low number of outfielders left on the market gives the Dodgers an extra bit of leverage, as their outfielders could be a little more in demand. Colletti said the recent activity could change the level of interest in his outfielders.
While moving Crawford (with four years, $82.5 million remaining) or Ethier (four years, $71.5 million remaining) would be ideal, there has been more talk of late surrounding Kemp. So much so that Dave Stewart, Kemp's agent, is headed to Orlando personally because of all the talk surrounding his client, per Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston.
"This is the first time we've experienced this," Stewart told Edes. "This is the first time we've heard it this much, and the first time we really believe something could happen."
Colletti said he's willing to listen to teams and is open-minded to trade possibilities, but only if it makes sense both in the short and long term.
"No doubt the focus here and now is 2014, but we can't sell off to sell off, then go into 2015 saying, 'Let's go get an outfielder on the free agent market.' We've seen the list. It's not overloaded with choices," Colletti said. "There is a lack of impact outfielders that are going to become available in the near future. We better be sure that, if we make a move, it would help this club for a while."
Colletti said he'd be willing to trade for a prospect package if the deal made sense.
"We've got some pitching in the system, and we're a little thin in position players," Colletti said. "If there's a way to shore that up as well and get younger, or maybe you're getting younger with big league players. Those are a key couple of ways at looking at it for us."
Baseball America ranked Joc Pederson, an outfielder, as the Dodgers' top prospect for 2014, with shortstop Corey Seager No. 2. But seven of the other eight players in the top 10 are pitchers. So if the Dodgers do trade an outfielder for prospects, don't be surprised if the package is heavy on position players.
A third baseman could also be a part of a theoretical package, as the Dodgers currently have a vacancy at the position. Colletti said he has made multiple offers to free agent Juan Uribe, but nothing yet has come to fruition.
"We started out markedly different," Colletti said. "We'll see what the next weeks bring. We had a lot of conversations early, but the last little bit of time has been a little bit quiet because we had gone where we thought he was worth. We're waiting to get a response back."
In the end, this is pretty much what we've known for most of the offseason. The Dodgers aren't forced to deal one of their outfielders, as they have shown the financial wherewithal to afford all four and more, but they are listening. Whether or not one of the four outfielders is dealt really comes down to a simple thought.
"We're open to doing it as long as it makes sense and we like who we get back," Colletti said.