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Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Winter meetings shopping list: Fourth outfielder

By Mark Saxon

It might take a while for the Dodgers to nail down their pitching staff this winter. The big names, such as Zack Greinke and Anibal Sanchez, remain unsigned and they might remain so until at least the middle of next week. Meanwhile, the Dodgers have until Dec. 10 to sign Ryu Hyun-jin or he will return to pitch in his native Korea.

While all that is sorting itself out, the Dodgers could probably settle one bit of off-season business fairly quickly, landing a fourth outfielder who could be insurance as Carl Crawford and Matt Kemp recover from surgeries. Getting another outfielder would allow Jerry Hairston Jr. to be the primary reserve infielder, marginalizing Juan Uribe even further, which is probably a good thing.

The Dodgers have already said their ideal candidate hits right-handed (since Crawford, Andre Ethier and Adrian Gonzalez are all lefties) and has the ability to play center field. That's why the team briefly looked into signing Torii Hunter, who was intent on signing quickly. The problem was, they could only promise him about 350 at-bats and Hunter elected to take a more prominent role (and $26 million over two years) from the Detroit Tigers.

The good news for the Dodgers is that there is a relatively deep market for outfielders. The bad news is that most of them are corner outfielder types and, of the few who can play center field, most hit left-handed.

Shane Victorino, in some ways, looks like the team's best bet, but like Hunter, he let it be known he still viewed himself as an everyday player.

It would be surprising if the Dodgers haven't checked in on Reed Johnson, 36, who had a solid season (.290) playing for both for the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves, bats right-handed and plays all three outfield spots.

Another former Dodger, Scott Podsednik, could be in the mix. After playing all of 2011 in the minor leagues, Podsednik got a chance with the injury-ravaged Boston Red Sox and batted .302 in 216 plate appearances. Grady Sizemore has the biggest upside of the players available, but he missed all of last season with knee injuries and is still reportedly working his way back. Rick Ankiel is drawing so little interest from teams, according to reports, that he has considered trying to pitch again.

There is, of course, always the possibility of a trade and several teams have a glut of outfielders. In fact, one of those teams plays about 30 miles away. It's fair to see if Vernon Wells is available.