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Dodgers Talking Backup Deals

The Dodgers, still focused on acquiring Ryan Dempster from the Cubs, continue to hold talks to line up back-up deals if the Cubs won’t make the Dempster deal. The Dodgers are rumored to be involved with almost every starting pitcher on the trade block, from James Shields and Josh Johnson to Zach Greinke and Matt Garza. Chairman Mark Walter said Wednesday after the acquisition of Hanley Ramirez that the team wasn’t done making moves, and picking up salary is no longer a hurdle for a club that was in bankruptcy less than three months ago. The Dodgers also are looking for another bat and have been linked to Philadelphia’s Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence, among others. — Ken Gurnick

Dodgers Still in Dempster Derby

A grinning Ted Lilly, the Dodgers’ unofficial recruiter-in-chief of Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster, overheard clubhouse talk about the Braves acquiring his friend and suggested a writer check Dempster’s twitter feed, knowing that the pitcher had announced he knew nothing about being traded. And Dempster has 10-and-five complete veto power over any deal, so those speculating that the right-hander will wind up at Dodger Stadium could still be correct. Especially, as some suspect, Dempster has told the Cubs that the Dodgers are the only team to which he’ll approve a trade. If that’s the case, the Cubs either trade him to the Dodgers or keep him through this season, after which he’ll be a free agent. — Ken Gurnick

Is Garza Next Dodgers Target?

After the Dodgers missed out on acquiring starting pitcher Ryan Dempster from the Cubs, speculation turned to Dempster’s former Cubs teammate, right-hander Matt Garza, as general manager Ned Colletti’s next target. One report said the Dodgers will trade top pitching prospect Zach Lee to the Cubs for Garza, but a baseball source said that is premature. Lee is reportedly the player the Cubs asked for in the Dempster talks, but the Dodgers didn’t want to move Lee for a two-month rental player (Dempster will be a free agent after this season). Garza remains under club control through arbitration for one more season, so the speculation reasons that the Dodgers are more willing to deal Lee for Garza than they were for Dempster. One problem with that theory is the Dodgers need a run-producing corner infielder at least as badly as a starting pitcher, and it might take Lee to land that hitter. Lee apparently still has significant trade value, even though he has struggled to a 9.45 ERA since being promoted to Double-A last month. The Dodgers farm system is thin in the kind of quality prospects needed to land the premier players on the trade market. — Ken Gurnick

Dodgers Waiting on Cubs

With Ryan Dempster scheduled to start Friday, the Dodgers are waiting on the Cubs for a decision on whether to deal the right-hander to Los Angeles. The Dodgers have made an offer, but won’t get in a bidding war because they also still need offense (preferably a corner infielder) even more than they need Dempster. And the farm system is thin in the kind of prospects needed to land All-Star caliber players like Dempster, San Diego third baseman Chase Headley, Shane Victorino, Aramis Ramirez, Michael Cuddyer or Jimmy Rollins. Dempster will be a free agent after the season and can veto a deal, but is expected to accept a trade to the Dodgers, where he will be reunited with buddy Ted Lilly. — Ken Gurnick

Phillies Interest Dodgers

One hour before game time, two members of the Dodgers training staff studiously watched the Phillies hitting group that included Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino take batting practice. Maybe the trainers were killing time. Or maybe it was due diligence in preparation for a trade. With Dee Gordon disabled, Rollins is a fit as a shortstop-leadoff hitter with about $25 million remaining on his contract that the Dodgers could take off the Phillies’ hands. He’d need to waive his 10-and-five trade veto, which probably means the Dodgers would need to guarantee another $11 million in an option season. Maybe the talks will expand to include third baseman Placido Polanco or even lefty Cole Hamels, although the Dodgers wouldn’t seem to have the prospects needed for Hamels. — Ken Gurnick

Dodgers Cast Wide Net

Aramis Ramirez and Ryan Dempster top the Dodgers wish list as the July 31 trade deadline nears. The Dodgers also are scouting Matt Garza, Corey Hart, Zack Greinke, Chase Headley, Bryan LaHair, Michael Cuddyer and Cole Hamels, among others. The goal is to find a power-hitting corner infielder, a proven starting pitcher and a left-handed reliever. The Dodgers have the money to pick up a weighty contract like Ramirez’s ($31 million remaining), but lack the top-shelf prospects likely needed to land a Hamels. — Ken Gurnick

Dodgers Showcasing Zach Lee for Carlos Lee?

When the Dodgers finally lock in on a hitter to acquire, the most likely prospect they will move in return is former first-round pick Zach Lee, even though they spent $5.25 million to buy him away from an LSU quarterback job. The pitcher other clubs will initially ask for is Nathan Eovaldi, but he’s essentially untouchable. Lee was just promoted to Double-A and his feel for pitching could get him to the Major Leagues quickly, but he hasn’t shown the dominant stuff to put him in a Clayton Kershaw category. The Dodgers don’t have many of the kind of top prospects it will take to land the kind of impact players they need. Among the names on their radar are Billy Butler, Michael Cuddyer, Todd Helton, Chase Headley and starting pitchers Ryan Dempster, Zach Greinke and Matt Garza. Because of their lack of top-shelf prospects, the Dodgers might find their best acquisition to be somebody’s bad contract. As they showed with the signing of Cuban Yasel Puig, they now have the money to overpay.

According to Fox Sports, the Dodgers could use Lee in a trade for Houston’s Carlos Lee, who would take over first base for James Loney. Lee would need to approve a trade to the Dodgers. — Ken Gurnick

Magic and McCourt Attend Opening Day

Incoming and outgoing owners Magic Johnson and Frank McCourt were part of a sold-out Opening Day crowd at PETCO Park. Johnson, the face of a group buying the Dodgers and Dodger Stadium for $2.15 billion, made a quick pre-game pass through the clubhouse and said hello to manager Don Mattingly. Johnson also leaned into the dugout from his box seats to congratulate Matt Kemp after his eighth-inning home run. — Ken Gurnick

Dodgers Talking to Grabow

The Dodgers are in discussions with free agent left-handed reliever John Grabow for a Minor League contract with an invitation to Major League training camp. The 33-year-old would join the mix for the second lefty role in the bullpen created by the non-tender of Hong-Chih Kuo, who has been offered a contract to return. Kuo is considering whether he wants to continue pitching. — Ken Gurnick

Dodgers Tried to Acquire Murphy

Daniel Murphy of the Mets is the player the Dodgers tried to trade for at the Winter Meetings, according to a baseball source, and they might make another run at him. Murphy was the unnamed player general manager Ned Colletti referred to when he said he might be able to upgrade the roster, adding yet another multi-position player after earlier signing Jerry Hairston Jr. and Adam Kennedy. But Colletti said the trade he thought might happen instead unraveled when the other club satisfied its need elsewhere without trading the player he wanted. That apparently was a reference to the Mets’ acquisition of Giants outfielder Andres Torres. — Ken Gurnick