Inside Baseball: Dodgers eye Greinke, Price, Murphy, Utley; more MLB notes

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- The Dodgers are targeting their own free agent Zack Greinke as their top starting pitching target, with David Price viewed as a very close second choice, a worthy fallback option indeed who could get $200 million, or more. The odds are that LA, with its seemingly limitless coffers, will reel in one of the top two free-agent pitchers, but if say the rival Giants and Cubs win those two pitchers' services, the Dodgers may not necessarily opt for the next highest-priced pitching talents on the market.

It should come as no surprise Greinke is their No. 1 option, as he did post a league-best 1.66 ERA for them, while Price is a natural second choice considering his own superb resume and strong connection to Andrew Friedman, LA's president of baseball operations. For now, at least, they seem almost totally focused on those top two, though they are looking at a few of the other pitchers but won't necessarily just look to take the next biggest name available.

Aiming high makes perfect sense for the $300-million team that's built to win. And so do their intentions at second base, where they are considering Daniel Murphy and a return of Chase Utley as a couple of the main options.

While a return of Howie Kendrick , who played over Utley, also makes sense, they wouldn't mind a left-handed option who can play both second and third. Murphy, who eliminated the Dodgers with the shocking game-winning home run in Game 5 of the NLDS off no less than Greinke, would seem like a perfect fit. Interestingly, the two teams Murphy fits bets may be the Dodgers and crosstown Angels.

While the Dodgers' player options are mostly big names and stars, their managerial search has featured an eclectic mix of former big-league managers, coaches and even a college coach. To that end, Davey Martinez, the longtime right-hand man of Joe Maddon, arrived here late Tuesday to meet with Dodgers brass Wednesday. Martinez is the last of the first round of interviewees, with the Dodgers expected to call back three or so candidates for second interviews.

"It should be a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to it, no question about it," Martinez said in the lobby of the Boca Raton Resort here at the GM meetings. "I think they're really good. They've got some good pitching, veteran players who are really good and young talented players there."

Dave Roberts, the Padres' coach, seems like a decent bet to be one of the callbacks, as word is he made a big impression in his interview. Darin Erstad, the former Angel and University of Nebraska head coach, would seem like an outside-the-box choice, especially for baseball's best-paid team, but he is also believed to be under serious consideration.

Ron Roenicke and Bud Black, two former Angels coaches and former big-league managers (Roenicke with the Brewers and Black with the Padres), would seem to be safer choices and would not shock anyone if they are hired. Gabe Kapler, the Dodgers farm director originally viewed as the favorite for the job, could still get it, as well, though there seems to be more buzz about others now.

If you notice a theme, you aren't alone. Dodgers people love Maddon, so perhaps it's no coincidence that Martinez, Roenicke, Black, Kapler and Erstad all have ties to Maddon (though it's fair to say that all but Erstad have ties to Friedman, too). LA surely would have loved to have Maddon himself, but it's possible that Friedman didn't want to risk starting a war last year by taking Maddon from the Rays after it was Friedman's decision to leave that triggered Maddon's out clause in the first place (Friedman also may have felt Don Mattingly deserved a chance, though he declined to comment on his reason for passing on Maddon).

Among the other candidates, Kirk Gibson, the 1988 Dodgers hero, and Tim Wallach, a longtime Dodgers coach, are being viewed as long shots, with Wallach headed to the Marlins as Don Mattingly's bench coach assuming he doesn't get the Dodgers job.

Whoever does get the gig should inherit an excellent team, and perhaps the NL favorite if they either return Greinke to the fold, or import Price. They are looking at some of the other pitchers, as well, with Ian Kennedy a possible mid-rotation option for them. But Greinke and Price are the main game for now.

There will be keen competition for both pitchers, of course, with the Giants, Cubs and Red Sox seen as some of the main competitors (there obviously could be many more for such great talents). The Giants are keeping things close to the vest this time, but word is going around that they love Greinke, who opted out with $71 million and three years to go and instead will seek a deal of at least five years, and maybe more, with a selling point that he will wear well since he can win pitching in the low 90s thanks to pinpoint control, amazing movement and precise game plans.

Price, who also has Cubs connections, with Maddon managing there now, is also a target of the North Siders and may interest the Giants, Red Sox and some others, as well. While Greinke allayed any big-market fears by thriving for both teams in Los Angeles, Price may make more sense for the Red Sox since he's been a career American Leaguer and was previously acquired by their new baseball leader, Dave Dombrowski.

In any case, it's hard to see the Dodgers not coming up with one of those top two pitchers.

Utley, Price, Greinke, Murphy
Dodgers eye have Utley, Price, Greinke, Murphy on their wish list this winter. (USATSI)

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