Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said Thursday that while signing outfielder Matt Kemp to an extension will be one of his top priorities this winter, he will not put a time limit of Opening Day on the negotiations, as Kemp's agent Dave Stewart has suggested.
"Whenever you have a negotiation, one side's always got the right to say they're not doing anything," Colletti told ESPNLosAngeles.com on Thursday. "Or two sides have the right to say that, or two sides have the ability to say, 'Yeah, let's do something.' So however that goes, we'll do what we can do from our side of it. We can't control the other side no matter who it is."
While Colletti said he generally prefers to finish with contract negotiations during the winter or during spring training, he doesn't see it as an imperative.
"I've done a handful of deals during a season, but the total number is very small compared to those that have been done in the offseason,"
Colletti said. "You take every situation case by case, you never say no to anything."
Kemp, 27, is coming off his finest season as a professional. He hit
.324 with 39 home runs, 126 RBIs and 40 steals in 2011. He has one more season of arbitration and would become a free agent after the 2012 season if the Dodgers don't sign him to an extension.
Stewart explained his preference for a deal to be struck by Opening Day as a matter of principle, not strategy.
"Matt is the guy that I work for, it would be my advice to him to just play and let's not do any negotiations during the course of the year,"
Stewart said in a telephone interview Thursday afternoon. "I've been a player and I've been in that position before and it's a distraction. For me, especially in next year's season, the most important thing is just have Matt concentrate on having another great year. To go out and play. This stuff would be a distraction for him and for the ballclub."
Stewart declined to describe the parameters of the type of extension Kemp is looking for, other than to say, "We're hoping to do a nice deal."
Kemp's 2011 season will speak for him. He had a chance to become just the fifth player in baseball history to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases, and made a strong run at what would have been baseball's first Triple Crown since 1967.
Can the Dodgers, who filed for bankruptcy protection in July and are currently being funded by a loan from Major League Baseball, make a realistic offer to him?
"By the time we get into all of it, I think they'll have all their ducks in a row," Stewart said. "I think they'll know exactly what they can and can't do. Otherwise I don't think they'll even start a negotiation if they can't get it done."
Stewart added, "Right now, what we're planning to do is a one-year arbitration. When the phone rings and Ned calls, if he proposes something different then we'll look to do something different, but right now we're preparing ourselves for a one-year arbitration and we've started preparations for that already."
Ramona Shelburne is a columnist and reporter for ESPNLosAngeles.com.