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Kasten: Dodgers likely to temper spending

While not ruling out big offseason move, club president not expecting one

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Like the Federal Reserve, the Dodgers will taper their spending. The only question is, when?

The answer increasingly appears to be now. They aren't interested in second baseman Robinson Cano, the best free agent available. They've signed 26-year-old Cuban Alexander Guerrero, figuring he'll replace this year's second baseman, Mark Ellis, a 36-year-old free agent.

And the Dodgers' assumed interest in bidding against the Yankees for Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka might be overestimated, as they were busy during the General Managers Meetings that ended Thursday talking to representatives of several second-tier free-agent pitchers.

In his best Ben Bernanke-speak, club president Stan Kasten gave no reason to expect a replay of last offseason, when the Dodgers' version of quantitative easing was to continue a spending spree on Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu to bulk up the starting rotation and help pull the club out of its recession.

"I think, for us, it wouldn't surprise me if we went [through] the winter without a huge move; not that it couldn't happen," said Kasten, who had a record-breaking payroll of $230 million in 2013.

For 2014, the Dodgers already have $172 million committed to 12 players. Four players -- Greinke, Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford -- will receive $20 million or more each. And two-time National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw should push that number to five, either through arbitration or a contract extension.

"We are looking more at deepening the organization, to fine-tune it and get into the season and see what we need," said Kasten. "Having said that, I'm not ruling anything out. But those people who attach us to every free agent out there are making it up."

And Kasten is still banging the drum on transitioning the franchise to internal development, a trademark of his two previous clubs, Atlanta and Washington. That dampens the chances that the Dodgers would trade for Tampa Bay ace David Price, who would cost a package of prospects and decimate a farm system just beginning to stir back to life.

"We're in the latter phase of Phase I and the beginning of Phase II," Kasten said. "But we're not fully into Phase II."

As it relates to starting pitching -- which the Dodgers want to address because Ricky Nolasco is a free agent -- they are kicking the tires on a group that includes Ervin Santana, Matt Garza, Hiroki Kuroda, Ubaldo Jimenez, Bartolo Colon and Bronson Arroyo, as well as Nolasco. They also need an infielder on the left side. It could be a shortstop, with Hanley Ramirez moving to third base, or a third baseman like Juan Uribe. That might require a trade, because the free-agent market is slim. If it's Guerrero, who is playing some short in winter ball, the club might go back to Ellis as a second-base stopgap.

Another priority is bullpen, specifically a setup man like Brian Wilson and a lefty like J.P. Howell, although neither will come cheap. The club also needs to rebuild its bench. Nick Punto has already left. Michael Young, Jerry Hairston and Skip Schumaker are also free agents.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for
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