Dodgers pondering offseason moves

Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said Thursday

the team’s priorities going into next season involve adding a

starting pitcher, keeping the bullpen intact, and improving the

bench.

Colletti and the rest of the front office were in meetings to

plan for 2013 a day after the Dodgers’ season ended without making

the playoffs for the third straight year and first under new

ownership. The team hasn’t won the World Series since 1988.

The Dodgers began the season in bankruptcy under former owner

Frank McCourt and ended it with an 86-76 record under new owners

that include Magic Johnson and Mark Walter. The team’s payroll

ranked 12th in the majors at $94.7 million on opening day and rose

to eighth at $129.1 million by season’s end.

In July and August they added infielder Hanley Ramirez, reliever

Brandon League, outfielder Shane Victorino, and pitcher Joe

Blanton, and in a blockbuster deal acquired pitcher Josh Beckett,

outfielder Carl Crawford, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and

infielder Nick Punto from the Boston Red Sox, catapulting their

payroll into the stratosphere.

Beckett is due $31.5 million over the next two years; Gonzalez

has $127 million coming through 2018; and Crawford is due $102.5

million over the next five seasons.

”It’s been a season with a lot of movement and additions of

high-caliber players,” Colletti said. ”Today compared to a year

ago, we’re in much better shape.”

The Dodgers on Thursday sent pitcher Rubby De La Rosa and

outfielder-first baseman Jerry Sands to Boston as the players to

named later in the Aug. 25 deal, having already sent first baseman

James Loney, pitcher Allen Webster and infielder Ivan De Jesus to

the Red Sox.

”We’re going to keep looking for opportunities,” team

president Stan Kasten said.

Even with their high-priced acquisitions over the season’s last

month, the Dodgers finished second in the NL West, eight games

behind San Francisco. They were eliminated from postseason

contention on the next-to-last day of the season, ending a

roller-coaster ride in which they used a strong start to propel

them into first place in the NL West before injuries took their

toll as the summer wore on.

”I was impressed and heartened by the play in April and May

when I thought we were overachieving,” Kasten said. ”My

expectations are that we will go further than 161 (games next

year).”

Colletti said the Dodgers’ 35-37 record against their division

rivals ”needs to get better.”

The injury bug hit two of the Dodgers’ biggest stars.

Slugger Matt Kemp had a hamstring injury in May before Andre

Ethier had an oblique strain.

Kemp was scheduled for surgery on Friday. He has a torn labrum

in his left shoulder, and depending on what doctors find, it could

be cleaned up in a minor procedure or he could have the labrum

repaired, which would sideline him for four months. After a

terrific first month, he wound up hitting .303 with 23 home runs

and 69 RBIs a year after being runner-up to Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun

for the NL MVP award.

”He should be ready for spring training,” Colletti said.

Ace Clayton Kershaw went 14-9 with a major league-leading 2.53

ERA despite a hip impingement late in the season that he said

hadn’t bothered him in recent days. His offseason workout plan will

be tailored to strengthen his hip.

”Things can always come back,” Colletti said. ”There’s a

really good chance it won’t come back.”

Starters Ted Lilly and Chad Billingsley were hobbled by shoulder

and elbow problems, respectively. Lilly’s inflamed left shoulder

kept him out from May 24 to the end of the season, and he’s

recovering from surgery. Billingsley’s recurring issues with his

right shoulder sidelined him the final month and he’s now trying to

avoid Tommy John surgery.

Adding a starting pitcher is ”an area we’ll seriously have to

look at,” Colletti said.

Crawford, part of the nine-player trade with Boston, never

suited up during the season while rehabbing in Houston from elbow

surgery. Colletti said Crawford should be able to start hitting in

December. He won’t be at full strength until April or May, however,

that ”doesn’t preclude him from playing,” the GM said.

Colletti wants to keep intact the bullpen that includes Ronald

Belisario, Matt Guerrier, Kenley Jansen and League. Jansen will

undergo a procedure to fix an irregular heartbeat that has affected

him the last two seasons, and is expected to be ready by spring

training.

”Our bullpen really prospered,” Colletti said.

Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig will play in the Arizona Fall

League and attend spring training with the Dodgers in Glendale,

Ariz., although his prospects of making the big-league roster

remain unknown. Puig signed a record seven-year, $42 million

contract after defecting from Cuba in June after several failed

attempts.

”Great power, speed, arm,” Colletti said of the young slugger.

”He still needs work playing the game.”

The Dodgers’ season attendance of 3,324,246 was the third-best

in the NL, and an improvement over last year when numbers dipped

below 3 million.

”That was a real show of confidence by the fans,” said Kasten,

who took over in May when the Dodgers’ sale was finalized.

Among the promises made by the new owners were improving the

team, enhancing the fan experience, and reaching out to the

community.

”I think we have made major progress,” Kasten said, adding,

”The jury is still out until we get to where our goals are.”