General Manager Ned Colletti didn't rule out the possibility of making a pre-emptive move to formalizing his succession of Torre with a contract, although that would be unprecedented in the long history of the Dodgers.
"We're having some conversations. We'll have to see what happens," Colletti said. "He's going to do what's best for Don Mattingly and we're going to try and do what's best for the Dodgers, and at the same time, we're going to keep in mind what's best for Don."
At the moment it seems premature to say he is regarded as the Dodgers apparent manager when Torre decides to retire, but there is no doubt that he is at least the leading candidate to replace Torre.
Mattingly was a finalist for the Yankees Job two years ago when Joe Girardi was hired, and then emerged as a candidate with the Indians this year.
"No Ace Starter Contemplated
Ken Gurnick of MLB.com reports that Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti and manager Joe Torre, after working on off-season expectations, reported that the acquisition of an ace starting pitcher is unlikely.
"There's not a long list of guys where you would say, this guy would make a dramatic difference," Colletti told Gurnick. "It's a thin market. There are pitchers who would make us better. But tremendously better?
"Every club needs an ace and we're not unlike any club. We might have one or two in the making [referring to Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley]. But the likelihood of an ace becoming available by trade is very slim. And this [free-agent] class doesn't have that type of allure to it."
Torre added: "Clayton Kershaw has not been lobbying for it, but the way he pitched, he's not afraid of it. Billingsley, even with a rough second half, he has the personality and ability to be a No. 1. [Hiroki] Kuroda got beat up. We'll have to see what going outside means. In all likelihood, that guy is not available."
Colletti pointed out, "I'm not sitting here and throwing out 95 wins in the regular season and sweeping St. Louis with two aces in the playoffs. We got beat by a real good team. In 1977-78, the Phillies got beat by a real good Dodgers team. You don't pick your time, the time picks you. It was not our time right now."
They did agree that starting pitching depth and the addition of a starting second baseman would be two of the key needs.
They werecomfortable with the young nucleus of a club that has won two consecutive division titles. The left side of the infield, third baseman Casey Blake and shortstop Rafael Furcal, are signed through 2011. Outfielders Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, catcher Russell Martin, first baseman James Loney and pitchers Chad Billingsley and Jonathan Broxton are elbible for arbitration for at least two more years. Kuroda is signed through 2010.
Manny Ramirez has until Nov. 10 to decide whether he will exercise his option to return at a salary of $20 million. The Dodgers have not heard from Ramirez or agent Scott Boras on the issue.
If Ramirez returns, it would still give the Dodgers 15 players eligible for free agency: Brad Ausmus, Ronnie Belliard, Juan Castro, Jon Garland, Orlando Hudson, Mark Loretta, Doug Mientkiewicz, Eric Milton, Guillermo Mota, Will Ohman, Vicente Padilla, Jason Schmidt, Jim Thome, Jeff Weaver and Randy Wolf.
Gurnick says it's conceivable none will return.
Hudson, Wolf and Padilla desire multi-year deals that the Dodgers are reluctant to offer out. Hudson lost his starting job to Belliard late in the season and cleaned out before the NLCS ended. Wolf was the Dodgers' most consistent starter, having 16 no-decisions that would have boosted his 11-7 record to remarkable heights. Padilla was better than advertised until he got bombed in the deciding NLCS game.
Torre was asked if he was "definitely" returning for the final season of his contract and he said, "Yes," adding that he already is "enjoying the thought of next spring."
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