Colletti tells Dylan Hernandez: We’ll Spend as Much as Last Year

General Manager Ned Colletti says Dodgers’ payroll unlikely to decrease, according to Dylan Hernandez

Reporting from Indianapolis – In response to widespread speculation that financial troubles could significantly compromise the quality of the Dodgers’ on-field product next season, General Manager Ned Colletti said on the opening day of baseball’s winter meetings that the club intends to spend at least as much on players as it did last season.

Asked whether the Dodgers’ payroll could decrease, Colletti said, “Not at the moment.”

Colletti didn’t rule out that the payroll could increase, and downplayed concerns that have been raised about owner Frank McCourt’s divorce proceedings and the club’s decision not to offer any of its free agents salary arbitration. The club began last season with a payroll of around $100 million.

“A lot of it depends on how the winter unfolds with revenue and different things along those lines,” Colletti said. “If we see good signs, it goes up. If we don’t see good signs, it probably doesn’t go up.”

Colletti said there was no basis to a FoxSports.com report that the Dodgers were encouraging teams inquiring about their relievers to submit trade proposals for setup man George Sherrill, in part because the left-hander is eligible for arbitration and could earn as much as $4 million in 2010.

“I think George Sherrill pitched great for us,” he said. “I think he gives us the same component he gave us last year — that’s somebody who can close, he can pitch late in the game, he’s left-handed, a compliment to our right-hander, [closer Jonathan] Broxton.”

The Dodgers issued a news release Monday to announce that team President Dennis Mannion, who has been in charge of business operations for two years, would also start overseeing baseball operations. Colletti will report to Mannion instead of McCourt but the GM said that shouldn’t result in any noticeable changes. Mannion started sitting in on baseball-operations meetings last winter and has handled the club’s day-to-day operations.

“He’s going to leave baseball to us,” Colletti said.

So what exactly will be different?

“It’s different because of where he’s at, his title and the formality of it,” Colletti said.

With all this said, Colletti acknowledged the Dodgers are unlikely to sign any players this week. Of the Dodgers’ free agents, Colletti said he has been in contact most frequently with catcher Brad Ausmus, whom he would like to re-sign to back up Russell Martin.

Colletti said the Dodgers continue to shop fourth outfielder Juan Pierre, who is owed $18.5 million over the next two seasons. Multiple teams have expressed interest in Pierre and the Dodgers expect to have a better idea by the end of the winter meetings whether they will be able to move him this off-season, sources said.

If the Dodgers trade Pierre, Colletti said, they would want pitching in return.

Colletti said he remains in talks with Manager Joe Torre about a contract extension.

Torre, who has one year remaining on his current deal, wants to manage in 2011 and move into a front-office role in 2012, according to Colletti.

Asked what he envisioned Torre doing for the Dodgers in his post-managerial days, Colletti replied, “Depends on how much time he wants to spend on it. Obviously, he’s a great evaluator and a great motivator and he could probably help us in a lot of different ways.”

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