L.A. Sent Young Arms for Proven Veterans

The Dodger trade with Tampa Bay that brought All-Star Danys Baez and Lance Carter from Devil Rays for prospects Jackson and Tiffany, has more twists and turns than a Sherlock Holmes mystery, and since the famous detective is my great uncle, I shall try to guide you through a labyrinth worthy of Doctor Moriarity.

The basics: Baez, 28, who made the American League All-Star team while saving 41 games in 2005, and Carter, 31 -- a lefty -- has been a solid setup reliever since losing the Devil Ray closer job to Baez, 28, two years ago.

Both will help fill the void left by departed Dodger relievers Duaner Sanchez, Giovanni Carrara, Steve Schmoll, Wilson Alvarez and Elmer Dessens.

The two didn't come cheap.

It involved two of their top pitching prospects in right-hander Edwin Jackson and the-sky's-the-limit lefty Chuck Tiffany. It was the Colletti's first trip to the Dodger minor league treasure trove, a site heretofore as off-limits as Jack Benny's famous basement vault.

The Dodgers also will receive an undisclosed amount of cash or a minor leaguer in the deal.

Like Colletti's acquisition of shortstop Rafael Furcal when Cesar Izturis was apparently healing well and in line to return in mid-season, so to adding an outstanding veteran closer with Eric Gagne in the wings seemed out of character.

But two things came into play: a] although the Dodgers exclude confidence that Gagne will be healthy by spring training, the question before the board is, will he be the real Eric Gagne when he is ready after only 14 appearances last year.

"We've got one of the all-time best closers in Eric, and I thought we needed more support for him," Colletti said. "Without a strong bullpen, you are going to struggle most days."

The Dodger training staff said Gagne's recovery from his June surgery has gone well and that he will be ready. Colletti said he has no plans to trade Gagne, who is under contract for one more season at $10 million.

"I don't have any information that leads me to believe Eric will not be healthy," Colletti said. "He gave me every indication he was feeling great and is looking forward to being back to where he was in 2004. Baez can close on a day when Eric has been out there two or three days in a row. There is strength in numbers."

But then reports have surfaced that Gagne will probably not pitch for the Canadian team in the World Baseball Classic in March but no reason has been given.

So that brings us to b] Gagne will be a free agent after the 2006 season and on the open market he will command great piles of gold.

With good stoppers closing successfully something like 88% of the time and great stoppers about 95%, can a club fiscally spend $12-14 million on the great one? Moneyball principals say no, but we're not exactly operating under those premises any more.

Baez, at $4 million on the final year of his contract, will be not only an insurance policy this year, he could be the stopper of the future if the Dodgers choose to nail him down during or after the '06 season.

Baez convinced Colletti he had no problems turning into a setup man/occasional stopper during a phone conversation immediately after the trade. "He knows we have Gagne and he said he wants to be on a team that wins a lot of games," Colletti said. "He knows it's a long season, there will be twists and turns in it, and he's ready to do whatever it takes."

Carter, 31, who avoided arbitration by signing a one-year, $550,000 contract Dec. 5, was an All-Star in 2003 when he had 26 saves for the Devil Rays. He gave up that role when the club signed Baez the following winter.

"Nobody in (the organization) believes Chuck Tiffany and Edwin Jackson won't be big-league pitchers," Colletti said. "But at the same time, our big-league club has certain needs."

To open a roster spot for Baez and Carter, the Dodgers designated minor-league pitcher Joel Hanrahan for assignment.

However it washes out, Colletti has put the league on notice that he is interested in winning -- now.

"I can't sit around and wait," he said. "I want the Dodgers to win now."

Nomar to Play for Mexico-- Dodgers first baseman to be Nomar Garciaparra will play for Mexico at the World Baseball Classic in March. The native of Whittier, California, qualifies because of his Mexican parents, Mexican baseball league president Alejandro Hute said in a newspaper interview recently.

Mexico is in Group B of the world tournament, playing against the United States, Canada and South Africa.

Terry Collins Restless?-- Dodger Minor League Field Director Terry Collins surprised some when asked if he would be interested in coming back to be a part of the new Midland (Michigan) Class A baseball team.

"I'd be very interested," Collins, 56, said Saturday in a telephone interview when asked if he'd have any interest in working with the new team. "Without question, absolutely."

Collins' father, Bud, still lives in Midland and Terry said. "I still call Midland home. ... I'm extremely supportive (of the new team) and I would entertain a call or offer any help that I can. I've got 36 years (in professional baseball)."

Collins had a shot at becoming manager of the Dodgers in the offseason, but it didn't come to be when GM Paul DePodesta was replaced.

When asked about the Midland situation, Collins said, "I've had a great career, but I'm at the point where (my career) is starting to wind down."

Dodger Blue Notes-- Ray LeRoux pointed out that The Miami Herald said that Bill Robinson, Marlins hitting coach for last four years, has moved to Dodgers as minor league hitting coordinator. …In the rumor department, catcher Bengie Molina, 31, an eight year veteran of the Anaheim Angeles, may be close to finding a new home, with the both Dodgers and Blue Jays going after him most aggressively. He has a lifetime batting average of .273 and hit .290 last year with 15 homers and 69 RBI …Minnesota is said to be offering Mike Piazza a contract, allowing him to DH, and tutor promising young catcher Joe Mauer.