The Dodgers are “aggressively pursuing” Torii Hunter…or not

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UPDATE: Hold your horses, everyone. According to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times, the Dodgers’ interest in Hunter has been overstated.

Hernandez hears that Hunter’s agent approached the Dodgers, who agreed to take a meeting with him. You know how agents used to try to get the Yankees involved in order to get other teams to boost their offers? Perhaps that is what we are seeing with the free-spending Dodgers now.

It doesn’t matter much anyway, as Hunter told Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times that he isn’t too keen on the idea of accepting a lesser role. He also denied Mark Saxon’s report that the Dodgers approached him with a two-year deal.

We continue to see conflicting reports on this, but Hernandez was also told by a source that Ethier is not on the trade block.

2:34 PM: Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles reports that the Dodgers have approached Hunter about a two-year contract. Contrary to Ken Rosenthal’s report earlier this afternoon, Saxon is hearing that the Dodgers have made it clear to other teams that they would consider trading Andre Ethier.

1:23 PM: Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the Dodgers will not trade Ethier and that Hunter would have to accept a lesser role if he signs with the team.

One would think that Hunter would rather look for a full-time role elsewhere, but since the Dodgers don’t appear to have a budget right now, they could compete and exceed other offers in terms of dollars. Kemp and Crawford are both coming off surgeries, so there’s a chance Hunter could play pretty regularly to begin 2013, but he would be some mighty expensive insurance.

8:55 AM: What do you do when you already have three outfielders under contract with long-term deals? You try to sign another outfielder, of course.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Dodgers are “aggressively pursuing” free agent outfielder Torii Hunter. This must be part of Ned Colletti’s strategy of signing all of the free agents in order to keep them away from potential rivals.

Nothing appears imminent, but Nightengale hears that the Dodgers have some organizational meetings on tap for next week in which they’ll try to formulate a plan to make room for both Hunter and a front-line starting pitcher. They have already spoken with the agents for Zack Greinke and Anibal Sanchez, who many consider the best two starters available in free agency.

The Dodgers have Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier locked into expensive long-term deals, so something will have to give if they want to sign Hunter. We heard a rumor last month that Ethier was on the trade block and this would seem to give some credence to that notion. Yes, it appears the Dodgers may already have a case of buyer’s remorse after signing the 30-year-old to a five-year, $85 million contract extension in June.

Adrian Beltre cleared for extended spring training

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Adrian Beltre has been on the disabled list all year because of nagging right calf strain, but he’s about to take a big step toward getting back to action.

Beltre has been cleared to begin playing in extended spring training games. He’ll commence them tomorrow at the Rangers facility in Surprise, Arizona. After three games the team’s doctors will reevaluate him. If things go well, he’ll likely be sent off for a full minor league rehab assignment.

Joey Gallo has filled in for Beltre all season, bringing a lot of power but not much else to the table. While Beltre is 38, his all-around game would be welcomed back on the field and his leadership would be welcomed back in the Rangers clubhouse. On a personal note, Beltre is only 58 hits shy of 3,000 for his career.

Barring a setback, he’ll be back with the big club in early June and will hit the milestone eventually.

Michael Bourn opts out of his minor league deal with the Orioles

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Outfielder Michael Bourn was traded by the Diamondbacks to the Orioles late last season and hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with them through the end of the season. While that’s not enough to outweigh the miserable season he had in Arizona, it was enough to get the O’s to give him a look in spring training with a minor league deal. They signed him to one in late February.

Then, a couple of days later, Bourn broke his finger while playing catch with a football. Unable to play, the O’s cut him. In early April, once Bourn healed, the O’s signed him again. He played 11 games for their Triple-A affiliate and went 9-for-41 with ten walks in 51 plate appearances. While that makes for a decent OBP, his lack of any sort of pop or good contact suggests that if someone throws him strikes, he can’t do much with the ball.

As such, the O’s had not called him up to Baltimore. And as a result of that, Bourn exercised his opt-out rights and became a free agent.

Someone may take a look at him given that his batting eye seems to be intact and given that, in an admittedly small sample size, he still performed last season. But if he does get a look, it’ll likely be back at the minor league level.