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Roberts: Dodgers 'more aggressive' this winter

By Ken Gurnick | @kengurnick

December 10, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- After coming up short in the Gerrit Cole sweepstakes, the Dodgers are likely to turn their attention to another free-agent thoroughbred in the stable of agent Scott Boras, third baseman Anthony Rendon.

The Dodgers were reportedly in the mix until Cole accepted a staggering $324 million over nine years from the Yankees on Tuesday night, according to sources. The deal has not been announced officially.

Without Cole, free agent Hyun-Jin Ryu is back in the picture for the starting rotation, as are free agent Madison Bumgarner and potential trade targets such as Cleveland's Corey Kluber.

Earlier in the day, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and manager Dave Roberts, as well as Boras, agreed that the Dodgers were aggressively pursuing every player the club considers an available top-tier talent.

"The commitment from ownership has always been there," said Friedman. "They're as committed as anyone to winning a championship."

Roberts said the Dodgers have been "more aggressive" in pursuit of players this offseason than any since he's been manager because of the quality of available talent and the team's financial flexibility, with sizeable salaries for Ryu and Rich Hill, also a free agent, possibly trimmed from the budget.

Roberts also stressed that chairman Mark Walter is "at the center" of the club's all-in stance after more measured approaches in recent years.

"I just think that the conversations that we've had, and it's clear, when you're talking about the players that are available, it's pretty clear how excited and eager our organization is about engaging, which we haven't been as much in past with other free agents," Roberts said.

"But I do think that Andrew, the front office, with Stan [Kasten] and Mark, there's still a process to be responsible to win still right now but also to not compromise too much. It's still kind of -- I wouldn't say at the fore, forefront, but it's somewhere in the front of our minds, but we're being aggressive."

Meanwhile, Boras -- who represents Cole and Stephen Strasburg, who returned to the Nationals, as well as unsigned free agents Rendon and Ryu -- said he's noticed a change in approach by the Dodgers (and the Yankees) this year. He's in a good position to know as he negotiates deals for the cream of this year's free-agent crop.

"They are storied franchises and their goal is to win the world championship," Boras said. "There have been a good number of years since they've done that. I think the level of hunger is greater by their ownership and they are illustrating that by their pursuit of players.

"I see a concerted aggression by a number of clubs for the Cole, Rendon, Ryu, [Dallas] Keuchel markets because there's a significant need for services. I don't know what the Dodgers think. I know when [Strasburg] beats you, we got beat by one of the game's great pitchers and we need great pitchers to beat them."

Roberts said he could sense the club would be active even before its quick elimination from the postseason by Washington, mostly because of the amount of "top-tier talent" available. He predicted that there would be greater roster change this offseason than any since he's been manager.

Before the Cole news broke, Friedman said the club remains interested in Ryu, and those odds increase with Cole headed to the Yankees. Boras said Ryu's market is robust.

"You don't sell pitchers like Ryu. Teams call you because he's performed at Cy Young levels," said Boras.

Rendon, like Cole, is considered a difference maker. Roberts said third baseman Justin Turner set the tone for the offseason by volunteering to change positions and open third base so the club could upgrade the roster. The right-handed bats of Rendon and free agent Josh Donaldson, as well as the Cubs' Kris Bryant, are rumored on the club's radar.

Roberts said he remains confident in closer Kenley Jansen and suggested that infielder Gavin Lux could see time in the outfield.