Rumor Central Open at Winter Meetings

The winter meetings in Florida have begun to throw longs in the traditional hot stove. Club officials from every club are on hand, each with their own agenda, and each holding his cards very close to his vest. Our special contact at the meetings send us this special report.

The Dodgers tentatively dipped their collective toe in the Manny Ramirez pool, attempting to see if the Red Sox are, indeed, interested in moving the good hit-no field outfielder.

Because the Sox want a starting player plus a hand-full of the Dodgers top kids -- Loney, Billingsley, LaRoche and/or Kemp, but the whole thing may be just a formal dance with little to show for it after the music stops.

The word from the floor is that a trade is no better than a "longshot," which will relieve many Dodger fans who do not want to stray from the coming youth movement the club has nearly in place.

It appears the Dodgers are, in their quest for a pitcher and an outfielder, targeting free agents RHP Jason Schmidt and outfielders Luis Gonzalez (Arizona) and the Brewers Jeoff Jenkins.

Gonzalez, 39, would be a one-year stopgap since his numbers have started to fall rapidly as he approaches 40. He hit .273-15-73 last season, well below his high of 57 home runs in 1999.

Jenkins, 32, had a nearly identical record in 2006, hitting .271-17-70 for the Brewers.

The Dodgers have left unprotected RHP Casey Hoorelbeke who spent all of 2006 at Jacksonville, going 2-2, 2.63 in 72 innings and and then sparkled with 1-0, 2.84 over 19 innings in the AFL.

He could be lost in the Rule V draft.

The Dodgers dropped his arm angle down from three quarters before the 2006 season. He has a 87-89 mph fastball, 82-84 mph slider and an 80 mph change

The Rangers are making the crown jewel left on the free-agent list, left-hander Barry Zito, their main target. The 28-year-old could end up witgh a six year, $100+ million deal, a wad of greenbacks that no other team is expected to match.

The Dodgers have never seriously been in the Zito scrum because of those 100 million reasons.

The Rangers are also among a number of American League clubs that are considering signing free agent Mike Piazza as a DH, particularly if Oakland lands Barry Bonds, his pending home run record and his load of extra baggage.