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Dodgers head into GM meetings, offseason focused on pitching, Andrew Friedman says

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES -- The Major League Baseball General Manager Meetings opened on Monday in Boca Raton, Fla., sort of an official kicking off of the baseball offseason.

We had free agency officially start last week, but any time you can get decision makers together in one place more conversations will flow and potential deals might not get struck but at the very least can have seeds planted. That said, it is still pretty early in the process.

"A lot of teams and players are in fact-finding mode," Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said on a conference call on Monday.

In fairness though, during the dates of last year's GM meetings (Nov. 10-13), the transaction wire was relatively busy, with seven signings, three trades and a waiver claim, though the biggest deal was probably Michael Cuddyer signing with the Mets.

If you're wondering what the Dodgers' focus is this winter, or at least their publicly-stated goals, you can look back at the qualifying offers made to three free agents last Friday - a one-year, $15.8 million contract offer to second baseman Howie Kendrick and to starting pitchers Zack Greinke and Brett Anderson.

The qualifying offer is mostly a mechanism to get compensated with draft picks should high-caliber free agents leave, but those three would also leave sizable holes in the Dodgers' roster.

"For the most part we're going to focus on pitching. This offseason is different than last in that going into next year we feel much better about our pitching depth at Oklahoma City," Friedman said. "Obviously [Hyun-jin] Ryu is a big wild card and [Brandon] McCarthy will be back at some point. Then you have [Mike] Bolsinger and [Carlos] Frias, Jose De Leon, [Julio] Urias, [Jharel] Cotton, Zach Lee and [Joe] Wieland. We have a number of guys and that is a big difference for us just in terms of the depth we'll have at hand.

"That being said we still need to round out our opening day pitching staff. Fortunately there are a lot of pitchers on the market, both on the free agent market and in trade conversations we've already had. Really locking in on rounding out our rotation and being opportunistic in the pen is where we're focused."

From the sounds of it, the Dodgers offense might not look too much different in 2016 than the one that struggled over the last four months, middling its way to averaging exactly four runs per game after May 31.

"We're pretty locked in offensively, outside of figuring out what we want to do at second base, whether that's staying internal or external," Friedman said. "But for the most part our position player group is pretty locked down."

More on the offense a little later, but for now, let's talk pitching.

Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt was rumored to have a two-year contract to stay in place, but Friedman said that isn't yet finalized or official.

"Nothing is done yet with Honey, and the other coaches are similar to where we were a few weeks ago," Friedman said.

With the departures of director of medical services Stan Conte and assistant athletic trainer Nancy Flynn, the Dodgers haven't yet hired a head athletic trainer for 2016.

"It is in process in terms of reaching out and having conversations," Friedman said. "We also have a number of really talented people who will still be here. We're kind of midway through the process."

Friedman wouldn't comment specifically on negotiations with Greinke or any of his free agents, citing his policy, though he did say he hasn't heard back from any of his three qualifying offer free agents whether they will accept or decline.

He downplayed the need for a second ace on the pitching staff.

"You look at the four teams in the Championship Series and all were constructed differently," Friedman explained. "It's just another illustration of the fact that you can get there in a number of different ways."

But Friedman at the same time said there are are no hard and fast rules about signing, or avoiding, long-term contracts.

"There are certain guys you feel better about than others [on a long-term deal], and there are certain guys where trying to do a shorter term with a higher AAV makes sense," he said.

The big wild card on the staff, and mentioned specifically as such by Friedman, is Ryu, who is recovering from May surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder, something he pitched through for two seasons. Ryu began a light throwing program in October, and while his estimated recovery time is expected to have him ready at the start of spring training, it's not something the Dodgers can necessarily bank on this winter when establishing their staff behind ace Clayton Kershaw.

"Every check point has been incredibly optimistic, and if success were dictated by how hard he has attacked this rehab process then I'm 100-percent convinced he'll be ready by opening day," Friedman said. "But you never know, and each day, each week, each month gives us more clarity. So I don't know yet whether we can fully count on him or not."