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Dodgers weighing shortstop options to keep seat warm for Corey Seager

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

SAN DIEGO -- So far at the winter meetings most of the talk surrounding the Dodgers has been about either trading Matt Kemp or adding a starting pitcher. But an area of focus for the club remains shortstop, a hole left vacant by Hanley Ramirez but one that could be filled by the time the team leaves San Diego.

General manager Farhan Zaidi on Tuesday said the team is pursuing options at shortstop on both on the free agent market and via trade.

"We have a couple of things that have moved along that have progressed reasonably well," Zaidi said. "Really we only need one shortstop. We have multiple things in the hopper, and the first thing that makes sense I think we'll jump at it."

The Dodgers only need a shortstop for the short term, perhaps as little as one year, with top prospect Corey Seager, 21 in April, likely ready to take over the position in 2016, if not sooner.

"We're not going into the season expecting him to contribute," Zaidi said of Seager in 2015. "If he were to break into the lineup, great. He obviously has the talent to do that."

Zaidi said Seager likely will be in big league spring training camp with the Dodgers as a non-roster invitee, much like Joc Pederson, Zach Lee and Chris Reed were last spring, plus Miguel Rojas and Carlos Frias, each of whom played their way onto the 40-man roster during the season.

Seager hit .345/.381/.534 with 21 extra-base hits in his first 38 games with Double-A Chattanooga in 2014, and could progress through the system quickly. That's why the Dodgers are only seeking a short-term answer at shortstop.

"They guys we are looking at are all in the kind of time frame where we're comfortable if they are a good fit this year," Zaidi said. "We're going to value positional versatility too — guys that aren't only a shortstop, but who can move around and accommodate Seager a year from now or whatever. Guys like that will be of value to us."

One trade target could be Jimmy Rollins, due $11 million in the last season of his contract. Alexei Ramirez with the White Sox is similarly guaranteed $11 million with one year plus an option left, but he is unlikely to be dealt by Chicago, with no clear upgrade at the position plus the win-now additions of Jeff Samardzija, David Robertson, Adam LaRoche and Zach Duke so far this offseason.

The free agent options include Stephen Drew and Jed Lowrie, who have combined to start 283 of the last 365 games (77.5 percent) at shortstop for the Athletics, dating back to 2012, with Zaidi in the Oakland front office; Asdrubal Cabrera, and Everth Cabrera, who was non-tendered by the Padres on Dec. 2.

Zaidi refused comment on any specific players, even the free agents, though he shed some light on how the club planned to replace Ramirez.

"It's sort of a sum-zero operation. We as a team were below average defensively at a couple positions last year, including short," Zaidi said. "If you go from a few runs below average to 10 runs above average and get a really good shortstop, then your bar on offense is a little bit lower in terms of what you have to achieve.

"We're not dead set that we have to get a .300 hitter at shortstop or we have to get a 20 runs above average defensive shortstop. It's going to be the totality of the package, including the in-house options we have."

Those in-house options include Rojas, Darwin Barney and Erisbel Arruebarrena, which are a tad underwhelming to say the least, especially on offense.

"Some of the issue is not so much inability as inexperience. Arruebarrena sticks out in this regard," Zaidi said. "With our expectations, the question is do we have time to let a guy figure it out. It's not just about him, but about breaking in any young player, which obviously in the long run is our plan. What you might need is an offense that is good enough where you have a little bit of a buffer.

"It's something we're continuing to evaluate. The lineup isn't fixed right now either."

If the Dodgers do add a shortstop by Thursday, it will likely come via free agency, not that the Dodgers are necessarily in a hurry to act.

"Particularly on the trade front, no deal is better than a coin flip chance of happening until it actually happens, so I wouldn't be overly confident on that side [that a trade would be done by the end of the winter meetings]," Zaidi said. "It might be just vetting out the trade scenarios makes us more aggressive in going after the free agent options are out there."