Orlando Hudson Signs with Rival Dodgers

The Los Angeles Dodgers have signed Orlando Hudson to a one-year, $3.4 million contract that could increase to as much as $8 million based on performance incentives. Although the Arizona Diamondbacks' former All-Star second baseman has defected to the team's staunchest rival, the transaction actually brings several hidden benefits to the D-backs' 2009 chances and beyond.

On the surface, Arizona Diamondbacks fans might notice that Orlando Hudson will make a lower base salary ($3.4 million) than his lesser replacement Felipe Lopez will ($3.5 million) and become livid.  Add to that the fact that Hudson will play for the rival Los Angeles Dodgers, and some D-backs fans might riot.  But if they were to examine the transaction more closely, they might realize that the D-backs actually benefit from the deal.

Hudson's contract includes $4.6 million in incentives clauses.  If O-Dog does perform well for Los Angeles, they will have to pay a premium for it.  If Felipe Lopez were to surprise by putting up numbers similar to his limited action in St. Louis or his 2005 season with the Reds, the Diamondbacks would have a bargain on their hands.  This move therefore either gives the Dodgers less money with which to lure Manny Ramirez back into their fold, or Hudson doesn't play well enough to earn his incentives and his acquisition isn't beneficial.  Granted, the Dodgers could not continue to be held hostage by Manny and his agent, Scott Boras, but in acquiring Hudson, they may have reduced their chances of signing Manny without significantly increasing their chance of winning games.

That is because while the move gives the Dodgers some much-needed depth, it could have some detrimental affects on the club.  Blake DeWitt, the 23-year old infielder who figured to be the Dodgers' everyday second baseman, may struggle now to find at-bats.  DeWitt had an .872 OPS in September after major league pitchers had adjusted to him in the summer months.  By contrast, Hudson had just a .718 OPS away from Chase Field last year, .738 in his All-Star 2007 season, and .734 in 2006.  At this stage of their respective careers, DeWitt is the superior fielder to Hudson, who was once the best in the business.

The biggest reason this move works out for the D-backs, however, is the draft pick compensation that they will receive.  Because the Diamondbacks offered Hudson salary arbitration - arbitration that, in retrospect, Hudson probably should have accepted - they will receive the Dodgers' first round draft choice this season as well as a bonus pick sandwiched between the first and second rounds. 

That first round choice is not just any draft pick; it is the highest draft pick compensation that the Diamondbacks could have received in return for Hudson.  The first 15 overall picks of the draft are protected from being used as free agent compensation due to the extremely high value of those slots.  Since the D-backs themselves have the 16th overall selection in this year's draft, the Dodgers' 17th overall pick was the highest left available.  Had Hudson signed with a team that selects in the first 15 rounds, they would have only received that team's second-round draft pick as compensation.  Because of the supplemental picks between the first and second round, that could have meant a compensatory pick anywhere between #50 and #75 overall.  The difference between the #17 overall pick and the #70 overall pick is monumental, and lessens the sting of Hudson defecting to an NL West rival, perhaps outweighing it completely.  

As it stands now, the Diamondbacks have back-to-back picks in the 16th and 17th overall slots.  Anyone who has ever tried a snake-order fantasy draft can attest to how strong of a position drafting twice in a row can be, and in snake drafts, you are drafting twice in a row at the end of a round, not in the middle of it.  The Diamondbacks will also receive two picks in the supplemental round (one for Hudson, and one for Brandon Lyon), giving them a grand total of five picks among the top 75.  Should Juan Cruz find a home other than Arizona this spring, that would bump that total from five to seven, as Cruz is  also a Type-A free agent.

So while Hudson's steadying hand and clubhouse leadership will no doubt be missed by the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Los Angeles Dodgers might just have been the best place for him to sign.  He brings back the highest possible compensation, stunts the development of one of the Dodgers' better young position players, and possibly undermines the team's efforts to sign Manny Ramirez, a true impact player as we saw last year.

Try to remember that when O-Dog doubles and makes a great defensive play at Chase Field April 10th, 11th, or 12th.

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