Bob Nightengale, USA TODAY Sports
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Dodgers already have an All-Star right fielder, but are aggressively pursuing free-agent right fielder Torii Hunter, a high-ranking Dodgers' official told USA TODAY Sports on condition of anonymity due to ongoing negotiations.
The Texas Rangers already have an All-Star shortstop, but were trying to grab Atlanta Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons, two high-ranking club officials told USA TODAY Sports, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity due to negotiations.
The annual Major League Baseball general managers' meetings concluded today, and there was more confusion at the end of the meetings than when they congregated Wednesday.
Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti would neither confirm or deny whether All-Star right fielder Andre Ethier was available, but told USA TODAY Sports that he did not have any trade talks with any team during the GM meetings.
When asked if they were actively pursuing Hunter, Colletti simply said: "I'm not going to talk about him or any other free agent.''
If the Dodgers don't trade Ethier, they could have the deepest and most prized outfield in baseball with four All-Stars: Carl Crawford in left field, Matt Kemp in center field, and Ethier and Hunter. Hunter, who spent the last five seasons with the Los Angeles Angels but was not tendered a $13.3 million qualifying offer could play all three outfield positions.
The Rangers, who have All-Star Elvis Andrus at shortstop, tried to acquire Simmons simply to spin him off and trade him to the Arizona Diamondbacks for right fielder Justin Upton, a high-ranking official with the Rangers and Braves confirmed.
Yet, the Braves did not budge, and the Rangers refuse to move Andrus or prized prospect Jurickson Profar for Upton, leaving the Diamondbacks to look elsewhere for a trade partner.
Upton's no-trade clause blocks him to four teams that expressed interest in him, leaving perhaps the Tampa Bay Rays as the most likely trade partners, but only if they send one of their prized starters, such as David Price or James Shields, to Arizona.
"What takes your team from a decent team to a really good team is when you go out and acquire a No. 1," Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers said. "I mean an innings eater, a legitimate, established-type starter, and it makes the rest of your rotation that much better. I don't see that happening, even in an Upton deal.
"Our sights are set pretty high on what it would take.''
The Dodgers will have organizational meetings next week in Los Angeles in hopes of formulating a plan that provides room for Hunter, while also acquiring a frontline starting pitcher. They have talked to the agents for free-agent starter Zack Greinke and Anibal Sanchez, and according to one club executive, no longer are involved in Ryan Dempster negotiations.
"We've got some things to think about," Colletti said. "We're in a better spot than a year ago, by far.''
Certainly, the Dodgers, who were sold for $2.15 billion last summer and are closing in on a 20-year TV deal that will pay in excess of $4 billion, have plenty of money. They don't care about the $189 million luxury tax threshold for the 2014 season, and simply want to win now. They could have a payroll eclipsing $200 million after already acquiring Adrian Gonzalez, Crawford, Josh Beckett and Hanley Ramirez last summer.
"As far as we're concerned," Colletti said, "we've got the freedom to think and to do bold things. As of now, we haven't been discouraged to have any thought or not consider any player."
Indeed, just a year ago powerful agent Scott Boras said that the Dodgers were shopping in the fruit-and-nuts aisle in the free-agent market.
Oh, I think they bought the store," Boras said. I think the Dodgers organization has made it clear they're about superstars and they understand Los Angeles."
It's a far contrast from the New York Yankees, whose desire to get below the $189 million threshold may cost them all four of their free agents -- closer Rafael Soriano, right fielder Nick Swisher, starter Hiroki Kuroda and catcher Russell Martin.
"Things change, we are reacting to a lot of different stimuli" Yankees GM Brian Cashman said. "These are new challenges. And all of these problems are solvable.
"I've won a championship with the fifth- or sixth-highest payroll in baseball. It was a long time ago, but I've done it."
The powerful Boston Red Sox may have the resources, but they also find themselves trying to turn around a franchise that was in disarray last year.
"We've got to build a better team," Red Sox GM Ben Cherington said. "We have to add talent. We need more talent on our roster.
"The reality is that this is Boston and we're going to build the team up as quickly as we can. You rely on the eventual thought amongst players and agents that Boston is going to work as hard as they can to be competitive. You have to talk about it more this offseason than other off seasons."
Said Boras: "The great thing about them is they are one of the goliaths of the game, revenue-wise. It's not a question of whether they can, it's a question of choice. I don't think there's anyone that thinks the Red Sox don't have the ability to compete in the free agent market."
Three weeks remain before the annual baseball winter meetings in Nashville, and three months before the start of spring training, but after three days in the desert, there should be plenty of movement before they all meet again.