What would be the perfect recipe for the Los Angeles Dodgers this off-season? ESPN.com analyst Jim Bowden, who served as the senior vice president and GM for the Cincinnati Reds and the Washington Nationals, offers these ingredients:
Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder: Everyone associated with the Dodgers, from the front office to the media to the players and fans, all want them to sign either Pujols or Fielder to put an impact bat in between Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. I'm hearing Frank McCourt has even given General Manager Ned Colletti the go-ahead to pursue them with the impression the Dodgers could fit either one of them into their budgets going forward. However, it is difficult to believe that the bankruptcy court and/or Major League Baseball would approve such a transaction until the team's ownership and television deal are resolved. Even if the deal were approved, it would be more than likely Pujols would end up re-signing with the St. Louis Cardinals while Fielder takes the largest offer on the table -- and that probably won't be from the Dodgers.
Getting younger: If the Dodgers can't sign for Pujols or Fielder, they should look to get younger and continue to build around Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw. Perhaps a blockbuster deal with the Cincinnati Reds that would send right fielder Andre Ethier and pitcher Chad Billingsley to the Queen City in exchange for a package that included Yonder Alonso, Devin Mesoraco or Yasmani Grandal, Juan Francisco, Homer Bailey and Mike Leake. Such a deal would give the Dodgers two young starters to go behind Kershaw while solving catcher, first base and one of the corner outfield positions for a long time. The deal might be unpopular for the short term but all of these players will be able to contribute in 2012. This would also free up enough money to get Kemp and Kershaw signed long-term, which should be the team's top priority anyway.
Hiroki Kuroda: He turned away the opportunity to be traded to a contending team in July because he wanted to stay in Los Angeles with a team that was not going to the postseason. Perhaps he could be persuaded to take less than market value to re-sign with the Dodgers. If they don't jump on him before he enters free agency they could lose him to the Los Angeles Angels or a Japanese team.
James Loney: The Dodgers should trade James Loney to the Cleveland Indians, who are unhappy with Matt LaPorta at first base and want to keep Carlos Santana behind the plate. The Dodgers should attempt to acquire either Vinnie Pestano, Nick Hagadone, Rafael Perez or Tony Sipp to add yet another good arm to their improving bullpen.
Another big get: If the Dodgers were able to clear enough payroll space with the deals with the Reds and Indians, they could delve into free agency and try to sign Carlos Beltran to a two-year $26-$28 million dollar deal to play right field. This would allow Beltran and Alonso to sandwich Kemp in the middle of the Dodgers' lineup. The Rays are expected to listen to offers for B.J. Upton and the Twins on Denard Span. The Dodgers should try to trade for either one of them to combine with Dee Gordon at the top of the lineup and improve their outfield range.
Read more from Bowden at The GM's Office blog on ESPN.com.