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Dodgers head to Meetings holding the cards

With top-flight roster already in hand, Colletti can wait for the right deal

LOS ANGELES -- There will be Matt Kemp and David Price trade rumors, speculation of a wild bidding war for Japanese starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka and someone insisting the Dodgers are in on Robinson Cano after all.

All that said, for the first time in years, general manager Ned Colletti could leave next week's Winter Meetings with the same roster he takes to Lake Buena Vista, Fla., and the Dodgers still would be the likely favorites to win the National League West, if not the World Series, in 2014.

The priority needs: a couple of relievers, one everyday infielder and one role player for the bench. But they already have a loaded starting rotation. They already have a loaded middle of the batting order. They have an underrated closer and starting catcher.

They are in what Colletti believes is a decent spot. Decent enough that clubs are calling to see if a perceived surplus outfielder like Kemp or Andre Ethier is available and Colletti is definitely listening, which isn't the same as trying to unload, or determined to.

The math says you can't divide the quartet of Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford and Yasiel Puig into three outfield spots. But if the Dodgers keep them all and are ever able to get them all healthy at the same time, whichever one doesn't start each game sure would provide a potent bat coming off the bench.

A package that infuses multiple young talent into the farm system would appeal to management's interest in a younger roster and freeing up salary for Clayton Kershaw's extension talks.

Medical reports on Kemp's surgically repaired ankle and shoulder are positive, but it's so early in his recovery that he's still wearing the boot on his ankle. He's expected to be ready for hitting and throwing at the start of Spring Training, but running will come last.

The bullpen is still an area of concern, even after re-signing Brian Wilson -- specifically a left-handed setup man if the Dodgers don't re-sign J.P. Howell. And if right-handers like Fernando Rodney or Joaquin Benoit don't find lucrative closing deals, they might be willing to join Wilson as a replacement for Ronald Belisario setting up for Kenley Jansen.

The most logical solution to the infield hole is a return of Juan Uribe. The Dodgers won't go down the three-year-contract path with him again, but that's what he's shopping for, which is why it hasn't happened yet.

If Uribe gets it elsewhere, a Plan B would be to slide Hanley Ramirez from shortstop to third base. Ramirez resisted that move while with the Marlins, but he's expected to accept it from the Dodgers, especially if the move is accompanied by a contract extension. Those talks, which Ramirez revealed last week, have only been preliminary.

The Dodgers were pleased with Ramirez's defensive improvement at shortstop last year and would ask him to move only if needed for roster flexibility. In that scenario, Cuban signee Alexander Guerrero could play shortstop, with Mark Ellis possibly returning at second base. Another option would be Guerrero at second base and the acquisition of a shortstop, perhaps free agent Stephen Drew if he can't land a long-term deal.

Contract extension or not, Kershaw heads a rotation with Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dan Haren. Josh Beckett is expected for the start of Spring Training after thoracic outlet surgery and Chad Billingsley by May after Tommy John surgery.

When Major League Baseball and Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball League reach an agreement on the posting process, the Dodgers are expected to make a run of sorts at Tanaka. But unlike their aggressively successful pursuit of Ryu last year, they won't be out to prove a point by outbidding the Yankees this time.

Lefty reliever Scott Elbert, also rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, isn't expected until midseason. Onelki Garcia should be ready for Spring Training after an elbow cleanup operation, but with Howell looking to score a huge deal, the Dodgers are especially thin in bullpen lefties behind Paco Rodriguez, as is the free-agent market.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for

Los Angeles Dodgers