Dodgers Improved Lineup During Winter Meeting

Ned Colletti, who successfully scrambled from the moment he was hired in 2006 to build a roster that would contend in the N.L. West, may get Christmas Day off this year after a frantic batch of signings came just before closing time.

After describing the club need as a big bat and a starting pitcher, Colletti signed right-handed starting pitcher Jason Schmidt ($47 million, three years), left-hander Randy Wolf ($8 million, one), center fielder Juan Pierre ($44 million, five), left fielder Luis Gonzalez ($7.35 million, one) and backup catcher Mike Lieberthal ($1.25 million, one).

And for the fifth time in the last five years, the Dodgers will have a completely different face. Thankfully the names will be on the back of the jerseys this year so fans can find out who they are cheering.

Payroll for 2007 would be about $111 million, including $12 million to pitcher Odalis Perez to pitch in Kansas City and for injured third baseman Bill Mueller who is now a part of the front office.

An exhausted Colletti hinted that the Dodgers could sign another free agent but now most of his time will be spent working out possible trades with clubs who desperately want the stable of remarkable young players.

He noted he Colletti will check out a trade with Vernon Wells of Toronto with pitcher Brad Penny as the guts of the deal. perhaps adding a prospect as much as it pains him.

Don't stop watching now, folks, the guy still has some ammo in his hunting rifle.

Did the Red Sox Fudge-- There were whispers around the halls at the winter meetings that there perhaps was something unethical about J.D. Drew's sudden forasking the final years of his Dodger contract for $11 million a year and suddenly finding the Red Sox with check book in hand to give him $15 million for five years.

Drew had told Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register and third base coach Rich Donnelly how excited he was to be returning to the club. Then the disappearing act.

Perhaps you would gamble that a better contract for more years was out there, but if things misfired it would make Jody Reed's turning down a three-year deal for $9 million and finally settling for a $500,000 contract look like a piggy-bank heist.

Other executives told the Dodgers that Boston was certainly tampering and his agent, Steve Boras, said all was within the rules a move that his agent, Scott Boras, said was aboveboard.

But while there is talk an investigation by the commissioner's office into possible tampering by the Red Sox, no complaint has been filed.