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Colletti willing to deal, but targets uncertain

With Nolasco filling rotation hole, Dodgers have no clear needs before Trade Deadline

LOS ANGELES -- Wednesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline is approaching quickly and Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti is locked and loaded with an itchy trigger finger.

Only one problem -- he's having trouble finding a target.

Colletti has been telling anybody who will listen lately that the market of available difference-makers is even thinner this year than usual, downplaying expectations just in case anyone thinks he'll land another Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Brandon League, Shane Victorino or Josh Beckett.

"The market is a little thin this year, maybe more than I can ever remember," Colletti said.

Truth is, after ownership spent a third of a billion dollars remodeling the roster, there aren't as many holes to fill as usual, either.

Colletti already filled the biggest hole by shoring up the depleted starting rotation by acquiring Ricky Nolasco from the Marlins. He'll probably kick the tires on Philadelphia's Cliff Lee because he does that every year. Lee is the kind of pitcher that can impact a postseason. White Sox right-hander Jake Peavy might also satisfy that requirement and the Dodgers have been scouting his starts.

Another focus could be a right-handed middle reliever, but Colletti has said he has his doubts how much of an upgrade is out there. The Carlos Marmol experiment is still a work in progress judging from early returns.

"Ned has talked to our whole group about different areas where we could possibly improve, letting us know who is out there and getting our thoughts," manager Don Mattingly said. "I hate talking about any one specific area, because you're basically saying another guy is not doing their job. I like our guys."

Colletti and Mattingly said they like what they've seen from relievers Chris Withrow and Jose Dominguez in their first big league action, but the rookies might not have management's trust in the heat of a pennant race.

Colletti has repeatedly shown a reliance on vets over kids with almost annual in-season trades for veteran relievers -- Elmer Dessens, Scott Proctor, George Sherrill, Octavio Dotel, Randy Choate and League.

The Dodgers scouted Francisco Rodriguez before Milwaukee dealt him to Baltimore and have followed John Axford. They've even kept tabs on former Giant Brian Wilson, who auditioned for the Dodgers and a handful of other clubs Friday in his comeback attempt from Tommy John surgery.

A major position player acquisition, anything along the lines of what the Dodgers pulled off last year, isn't necessary. The only positions where the Dodgers don't have contract commitments are second base, third base and catcher.

Second baseman Mark Ellis (club option) and third baseman Juan Uribe will be eligible for free agency after this season. But both are playing well, so any replacement at this time not only would need to be an upgrade, but probably a younger one the Dodgers could keep a few years.

Chase Utley is one of the names that has intrigued the Dodgers since they drafted --but couldn't sign -- him out of high school.

Catcher A.J. Ellis has become one of the most irreplaceable members of the club with his combination of receiving skills, knowledge of the pitching staff and solid offense.

The bench lacks power, so that's one area that could be improved.

And Thursday is just one deadline. Colletti often is just as active after the non-waiver deadline in August, when he pulled off last year's blockbuster with Boston.

And if the Dodgers don't make a trade, will Mattingly be OK with the roster as it currently stands?

"I would," he said. "I wouldn't be afraid to go forward with it. As I've said in the past, I think you always want to try to get a little better. If you can get a little better, you try to get better. That being said, I think that's constantly always happening, you're never just standing pat and saying, 'OK, we're good enough.' I think you're always trying to get a little better."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for
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