Free Agent Signings Move Dodgers to 20th Pick

The tsunami of free agent signings over the off-season have switched a number of 2007 first round draft choices about, one of which moves the Dodgers from a 22nd round pick to a 20th round pick. Los Angeles also picks up a 43rd round pick because of Boston's impetuosity.

Boston signed SS Julio Lugo, giving Los Angeles their first selection in the process and a supplimental pick after the first round. It is a good thing, too, because when the Dodgers signed RHP Jason Schmidt, they forfeited their 22nd round choice to the Giants.

The two early draft selections will leave the Dodgers with something in a trade that sent Joel Guzman and Seergio Pedroxa to Tampa Bay for Lugo, who was a tremendous disappointment in Los Angeles.

And things aren't over yet, although the supplemental first round is now up to at least 32 picks. That means that their will be 93 players picked before the clubs move into the second round of the draft.

There are still free agents available that will either cost a team or enable them to get a selection in the second, third or fourth round for him. Below is the first round draft order. 1. Devil Rays 2. Royals 3. Cubs 4. Pirates 5. Orioles 6. Nationals 7. Brewers 8. Rockies 9. Diamondbacks 10. Giants 11. Mariners 12. Marlins 13. Indians 14. Braves 15. Reds 16. Blue Jays (Frank Catalanotto to Tex) 17. Rangers (Carlos Lee to Hou) 18. Cardinals 19. Phillies 20. Dodgers (Julio Lugo to Bost.) 21. Blue Jays 22. Giants (Jason Schmidt to LA) 23. Padres 24. Rangers (Gary Matthews to Ana) 25. White Sox 26. Athletics 27. Tigers 28. Twins 29. Giants (Moises Alou to NYM) 30. Yankees Notes from the N.L. West


> Dodgers Inside Pitch
The acquisitions and re-acquisitions made by the Dodgers this offseason might have taken all of the mystery out of their projected Opening Day lineup.
First baseman Nomar Garciaparra was re-signed before he could drift too far into the free agent market, so he has secured that position for two more season.
The free agent signings of Luis Gonzalez and Juan Pierre have provided the Dodgers with their left and center fielders, respectively, with Andre Ethier penciled in for right field.
The remaining positions are expected to be secured by catcher Russell Martin, third baseman Wilson Betemit, shortstop Rafael Furcal and second baseman Jeff Kent.
It's the players behind the scenes, however, the ones waiting for their chance to make a lasting impression, who could decide the Dodgers' fate in 2007.
The Dodgers returned to the playoffs in 2006 only after a handful of unknowns stepped into the spotlight at the right time and exceeded expectations. The team may need to have that happen again if it wants to return to the postseason.
Injuries limited Kent to 115 games last season, his lowest total since 1994. Garciaparra continues to be injury-prone even though he moved to the less-demanding position of first base a year ago. He played in 122 games last season, which was his high-water mark since 2003.
The emergence of rookie James Loney helped soften the blow when Garciaparra went down with a late-season leg injury. His solid performance, and that of Olmedo Saenz, prevented the Dodgers from missing a beat.
Julio Lugo and Ramon Martinez picked up some of the slack created by Kent's oblique strain. Even Marlon Anderson, a late-season acquisition, joined the party by filling in for a struggling Ethier during the stretch drive.
The reserves' efforts didn't go unnoticed.
The Dodgers re-signed Martinez to a one-year contract shortly after their season ended, and they hold the option for a second year.
"Ramon was a very valuable and versatile player for us (last) season," Dodgers manager Grady Little said. "He can fill several roles for the club and is a strong presence off the bench and in the clubhouse."
Saenz was locked into two-year deal prior to the 2006 season. Anderson came to Los Angeles with the idea that he was going to be a part-time player. Though he'll probably be pushed back into a reserve role, the Dodgers have him high on their depth chart at second base and the outfield.
Little did a good job resting his older players throughout the season, and having players like Martinez, Saenz and Anderson in the mix will make it easy for him to do it again.

Padres Inside Pitch How close did the Padres come in the Randy Johnson derby?
Closer than you might think.
If Arizona hadn't come up with a better offer, the Padres believe they had the ear of Yankees general manager Brian Cashman with a deal that included a player off San Diego's major league roster -- believed to be right-handed relief pitcher Scott Linebrink -- and a minor-leaguer. The Padres were still negotiating how much of Johnson's $16 million contract for 2007 the Yankees were going to take.
But they were ready to schedule the obligatory physical exam for Johnson, who told the Yankees that the Padres were one of the teams he would consider being traded to in his desire to pitch closer to his Paradise Valley, Ariz., home.
One possible sticking point with Johnson was the Padres' opposition to negotiating a contract extension with the pitcher.
Padres CEO Sandy Alderson said the team had the ability to take on Johnson's contract. "Would we be willing?" said Alderson, who said a contract extension for Johnson was "highly unlikely."
Johnson would have topped off a rotation that already includes future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux, plus Jake Peavy, Chris Young and Clay Hensley.

Rockies Inside Pitch
Dave Veres, a former Dodger minor leaguer, could make history.
His goal, however, is to make the Rockies roster.
After undergoing hip replacement surgery last March, and then getting involved in city-league baseball last summer, Veres physically felt so good at the age of 40 that he contacted the Rockies. He will attempt a comeback this spring.
The right-hander agreed to a minor league contract with the Rockies, for whom he pitched in 1998 and 1999, with an invitation to big-league spring training. Veres has been out of baseball the past two seasons, and hasn't pitched in the big leagues since 2003, having spent the 2004 season attempting to rehab from shoulder surgery.
Veres, however, said he assured Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd that he is serious about resuming his career.
"Dan's big concern was making sure there was no residual effect (on the hip from pitching)," Veres said. "I told him I'm not trying to eke out one more year. I want to pitch three, four more years. My whole career has been built around challenging the odds. That doesn't bother me."
Veres said the hip problem was the main reason he retired. He initially tried losing weight and implementing an exercise program to alleviate the hip pain. It didn't work. Finally, a year ago, he underwent surgery.
Bo Jackson attempted a comeback after hip replacement surgery, but that was in the early 1990s.
"There have been a lot of advancements since then," said Veres. "The doctor initially didn't know who I was. He asked me how I hurt my hip, and I told him about pitching. He said, 'There a chance you can pitch again.' I wasn't even thinking about that. I was just hoping I'd be able to walk.
"As time has gone on, though, I have felt better and thought maybe I'd give it a shot."
Veres would be considered a longshot, but the Rockies do know that he is a quality person in the clubhouse, and he was a quality pitcher when he was with them before. His 31 saves in 1999 are tied for the third-best single-season total in franchise history. Overall, he was 7-9 with a 3.99 ERA n two years with Colorado.

Diamondbacks Inside Pitch
Can a 43-year-old coming off back surgery in late October help lift a vastly young and unproven club back to the postseason for the first time in five years?
As important, is a 43-year-old coming off back surgery worth the gamble of a two-year contract worth in excess of $25 million?
When the pitcher in question is Randy Johnson, and he's returning home to a place where he won four consecutive Cy Young Awards during his six-year tenure with the Diamondbacks, it may not be such a stretch at all.
Especially when one considers Johnson's intense and enraging will to prove skeptics and critics wrong, something he did regularly in Arizona the last time around. Not that one of the most dominating pitchers of this or any other era really needed motivation, but the Big Unit thrives on building up walls and having a ticking-bomb personality serve as his weapons for achieving his goals.
Those goals now include trying to elevate the Diamondbacks to overachieving status and helping them slip ahead of big spenders like the Dodgers and Giants in the National League West while he attempts to pick up his 300th career victory in the process.
The Diamondbacks had reached a tentative deal with the Yankees on Jan. 4 that involved sending reliever Luis Vizcaino and minor league pitchers Ross Ohlendorf and Steven Jackson to the Bronx, along with minor league shortstop Alberto Gonzalez. Arizona had a 72-hour window to then work out a suitable contract with Johnson, which was believed to include a $10 million salary for 2008.
The Yankees were to pick up about $2 million or more of Johnson's $16 million salary for the upcoming season and, assuming he passes a physical and waives his no-trade clause, he would return to the club he helped lead to the 2001 World Series title -- over the Yankees, no less.
Johnson would join a rotation that includes the 2006 NL Cy Young Award winner, Brandon Webb, along with Livan Hernandez and lefty Doug Davis, whom Arizona acquired from Milwaukee in a six-player trade earlier this winter.
Johnson was 34-19 with a 4.37 ERA in his two seasons with the Yankees and enters this season with a 280-147 career record and 4,544 strikeouts. His strikeout total ranks third on the all-time list and is the most ever by a left-hander.

Giants Inside Pitch
Felipe Alou returned to the Giants organization, three months after he was fired as manager.
Alou accepted a job as assistant to the general manager, and he'll serve under Brian Sabean in a number of roles, including scouting and advising. Sabean said Alou, a Florida resident, will spend more time on the West Coast than the East Coast.
"I'd like to use my experience and knowledge of the division and the National League any way I can to help the team," Alou said.
Alou, 71, managed four years with the Giants. He won 100 games in his first year and 91 in the second, but the Giants suffered through losing records each of the past two seasons.
He was replaced by Bruce Bochy, and Alou praised Bochy's appointment, along with the signing of free agent Barry Zito for $126 million and the reattachment of Barry Bonds, whose $15.8 million contract still is unfinished.
"Barry Zito never misses a start, and he's still a kid," said Alou, who managed teams with injury-prone players beyond their primes. "He knows the area and ballpark. I think it was a great signing."
Sabean said he's excited Alou is back in the organization.
"Simply put, we're going to try to expose him to all areas of baseball operations," Sabean said. "It's wide open, and I really look forward to being able to work hand in hand starting in spring training."

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