Schmidt deal would boost Dodgers

Schmidt deal would boost Dodgers

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Los Angeles Dodgers may have landed the second-most sought-after starting pitcher in the current free-agent market. And in the process, they have created for themselves that rare situation in contemporary baseball -- a pitching surplus.

The Dodgers have agreed with Jason Schmidt on a three-year, $47 million deal, pending a physical exam. In this year's market for starting pitchers, only left-hander Barry Zito would be considered a bigger prize than Schmidt.

This would have been a coup under normal circumstances, but it was even bigger than that for the Dodgers. The addition of Schmidt is also the subtraction of Schmidt from the rival San Francisco Giants. And then there is the matter of the Dodgers' pitching surplus.

Schmidt will join a rotation that includes Derek Lowe, Brad Penny, Chad Billingsley and Randy Wolf. The Dodgers also have starters Brett Tomko, Mark Hendrickson and Hong-Chih Kuo on their roster. It would appear that the Dodgers have now become the rare club with enough pitching depth to trade for an impact hitter.

That puts them in very select company at the Winter Meetings. Of the 30 clubs, only the Chicago White Sox have been publicly offering established starting pitchers as potential trade bait.

So with one move, not only have the Dodgers improved their pitching with the addition of Schmidt, they have put themselves in a position to improve their lineup, as well.

This was the fallback plan for general manager Ned Colletti. After being unable to land an impact hitter such as Alfonso Soriano, the Dodgers determined that they would build up a pitching surplus that would allow them to trade for a run producer. That kind of thing is easier said than done, but the Dodgers appear to have both said it and done it.

There was a crowd of suitors for Schmidt's services, including the St. Louis Cardinals, the Seattle Mariners and the Chicago Cubs.

"The Dodgers got themselves a good starting pitcher," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said on Wednesday. "You know, you have to pay for good talent. Jason's had a great career."

Dodgers manager Grady Little, while declining the opportunity to confirm Schmidt's signing on Wednesday, did comment on his quality. He said that when the Dodgers faced Schmidt, their hope was to keep the game close until Schmidt tired and then try to win the game against the next pitcher. That's one sort of ultimate endorsement.

The downside with Schmidt is that he is a power pitcher who will be 34 when the 2007 season starts. His best work came in 2003-04, when he was a combined 35-12. Schmidt has a history of shoulder problems.

But in this market, with pitchers of markedly less ability than Schmidt about to command contracts averaging eight figures per year, this deal is not wildly out of line.

And in making the deal, the Dodgers advanced on three fronts: improving their own pitching, adding a pitcher who had last been in the rotation of a division rival and giving themselves the pitching depth and roster flexibility to improve their offense.

There is no question that $47 million is a lot of money for a three-year pitching deal, even in this inflationary climate, but this signing of Schmidt was multi-purpose for the Dodgers.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.