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12/03/07 2:06 AM ET

Dodgers step up interest in Andruw

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Dodgers have stepped up talks with free-agent center fielder Andruw Jones, a club official confirmed Sunday.

Jones is coming off the worst season of his career -- .222 average, 26 homers, 96 RBIs. Even with those numbers, Jones would immediately become the most potent proven bat in the Dodgers lineup. Management envisions a batting order with the potential for five 20-homer players -- Jones, Jeff Kent, Russell Martin, James Loney and Matt Kemp, even though the latter three have never hit 20 homers in a Major League season.

Jones, a 10-time Gold Glove and five-time All-Star, is believed to be seeking a contract in excess of the five-year, $90 million deal Torii Hunter signed with the Angels. But there is concern among some clubs that Jones, still 30, might be tailing off.

The Dodgers apparently are not interested in a contract guaranteed longer than two years, but that would allow Jones the opportunity to revisit free agency with greater leverage after a more productive season. Jones' acquisition would create a surplus of outfielders and probably force the relocation of Juan Pierre's vulnerable throwing arm to left field.

Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti and his staff are expected to arrive at MLB's Winter Meetings on Monday afternoon. Colletti has downplayed the likelihood of a blockbuster trade while indicating an unwillingness to package multiple top prospects for the premier trade targets on the market, Florida third baseman Miguel Cabrera and Minnesota pitcher Johan Santana.

The Dodgers, however, are aggressively pursuing Japanese free-agent pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, who would provide starting pitching depth after Brad Penny, Derek Lowe and Chad Billingsley. Jason Schmidt and Esteban Loaiza are also in the mix for starting spots, depending on their health.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.