Dodger Free Agent Inquiries on Hold

The Dodgers made contacts with agents of several free agents during the general managers' meetings, one of whom was Brian Giles. The slugging outfielder, who hit .301 with 15 homers and 83 RBI for San Diego last season and was fourth in the majors with a .423 on-base percentage, would fill the club's need for a run-producing bat in the middle of the order.

While the Dodgers are expected to make a preliminary offer to Giles, the situation has many complications, not the least of which is the club's continuing search for a general manager.

Joe Bick, Giles' agent, said that several teams have expressed interest in his client. Bick wouldn't say how many, but it is believed to be more than a dozen.

And with the free-agent negotiating season now officially under way, the Dodgers will be apparently at a disadvantage in their pursuit of those players.

Players won't consider signing with a club unless they know what direction that club is heading, and as long as the Dodgers have neither a GM nor a manager, there is no way to answer to that question.

Dodgers owner Frank McCourt isn't giving interviews during the GM search, now entering its third week after the decision to fire former GM Paul DePodesta was made almost four weeks after the Dodgers' season ended.

The club's search for a manager probably won't begin until a GM is in place and it becomes clear the Dodgers are destined to get a late start on the free-agent rush.

Giles, who will turn 35 in January, probably can't be had for less than a three-year contract, and he won't come cheaply, either. Giles made at least $7 million each of the past four seasons. The Dodgers already have $58.66 million committed to nine players for 2006, and with the payroll expected to shrink to somewhere in the $75 million to $80 million range, that leaves no more than about $22 million with which to fill the other 16 spots on the season-opening roster.

Dodger Blue Notes-- John Shelby, the Dodgers' first base coach the past six seasons, was hired by Pittsburgh manager Jim Tracy to join his staff. …The Dodger plan to replace fired general manager Paul DePodesta and manager Jim Tracy has ground to a walk. Bobby Valentine, who seemed to be the choice to replace Tracy once team owner Frank McCourt began to emphasize bringing in former Dodgers, reportedly has agreed to a new three-year contract to manage the Chiba Lotte Marines in Japan. Valentine said he had yet to sign the contract, which is worth about $4 million a year and the Dodgers could not come close to matching his salary. Tracy was paid $700,000 a year. No mention has been made of plans for former Dodger pitcher Orel Hershiser. Hershiser has voiced his interest in either becoming manager or joining the front office, is still available. …The Dodgers will play an exhibition game in Las Vegas late during the spring training season. They will play the Mariners on Thursday, March 30. The Dodgers will be making their fourth all-time appearance at Cashman Field and the first since the 2003 season (Dodgers defeated Colorado, 5-3, on March 27 before a sellout crowd of 9,966). L.A. played three straight seasons at Cashman Field (2001-03). …Columbus Catfish owner David Heller announced the hiring of Ken Clary as general manager. Clary began his baseball career in 1985 with the Nashville Sounds (TN) followed by stints with the Greensboro Hornets (NC) and the Charlotte Rangers (Port Charlotte, FL).