Colletti pulls out an ace and salvages his winter

How good was the Jason Schmidt signing? In addition to giving the Dodgers a new No. 1 starting pitcher, Schmidt just picked up a save.

By joining the Dodgers, Schmidt salvaged this winter meeting session for General Manager Ned Colletti, turned it from questionable and frustrating to productive.

After the Dodgers overspent on Juan Pierre, lost two key members of their 2006 playoff push, and couldn’t find a reasonable asking price for Manny Ramirez, they got themselves a new staff ace.

They got the 1A to Barry Zito’s 1 on the list of free agent starting pitchers.


And since Schmidt isn’t represented by Scott Boras, he probably tops the list in Colletti’s mind.

Boras set the tone for this session by informing the Dodgers that J.D. Drew, who led the power-poor team in home runs last season, would opt out of the remaining three years on his contract. Then Boras brought Maddux down the Southern California coast to the San Diego Padres. The only thing Boras did for the Dodgers this winter was save them 39 cents, because there’s one fewer Christmas card they’ll be mailing out.

It’s evident that Colletti still corresponds with his old colleagues in San Francisco, and in the case of Schmidt that’s a good thing for the Dodgers. Not only did they get better, they also took the best pitcher from the Giants.

He had a modest 11-9 record and 3.59 earned-run average for San Francisco last season, but those weren’t the most important numbers. He pitched at least seven innings in 17 of his 32 starts.


As Grady Little told reporters at the winter meetings in Florida, “The situation we were in last year in L.A., we liked starting pitchers any time they went beyond the fifth inning.”

Brad Penny, the team’s supposed ace, pitched seven innings or more only seven times. Derek Lowe, who emerged as the team’s most reliable starter, made it to the seventh inning 14 times. Most nights, Little never knew how early he’d have to pick up the bullpen phone.

That included the starts for Maddux, who for all of the experience he brought to the clubhouse, couldn’t fool father time. He’s 40. And if the $47 million over three years that the Dodgers are spending on Schmidt more than doubles the annual salary Maddux will get from San Diego the next two years, consider that the cost of getting younger.

Schmidt turns 34 next month. He can’t be considered youthful anymore, but he’s only two years older than Chris Carpenter, the 2005 Cy Young Award winner. And with such a short-term contract, the Dodgers aren’t committed to paying him once the gray hairs start creeping into his goatee.


Colletti has been open about his desire to build up his pitching staff to give him trading options down the line.

It showed that, for once, someone actually said something truthful at the winter meetings. Usually they’re filled with more bluffing than the World Series of Poker.

For example, there are those who believe the Boston Red Sox, for all the headlines they generated by keeping Manny Ramirez in the trade waters, never seriously intended to move him. Otherwise they wouldn’t have set such a high asking price, including Jonathan Broxton from the Dodgers and Francisco Rodriguez from the Angels, along with a couple of high-value prospects.

Now Colletti has done it, bringing in Schmidt and Randy Wolf to join Derek Lowe, Brad Penny, Hong-Chi Kuo, Chad Billingsley and Mark Hendrickson.


The next step should be moving Penny.

At 28, Penny’s still young enough and throws hard enough to attract interest from teams that won’t have personal recollections of how he turned into a sub-mediocre pitcher -- 6-7 record, 6.25 ERA -- after the All-Star break.

With the Dodgers presumably finished free-agent shopping, they’ll need to make a trade to bring in the big bat their lineup needs. I’m still wondering why they gave Juan Pierre five years and $44 million when he essentially puts up the same offensive numbers as Rafael Furcal, minus a dozen home runs and plus a dozen steals.

But compared to their National League West rivals, the Dodgers came out ahead. Getting Schmidt overcomes the loss of Maddux. They re-signed closer Takashi Saito and brought in catcher Mike Lieberthal to give Russell Martin an occasional break. The Padres are losing Mike Piazza to the Oakland A’s and lost Dave Roberts to the Giants, who are losing Moises Alou and Schmidt.


Now that Schmidt’s coming to Chavez Ravine, Colletti’s had a productive trip to Florida.

At the very least, he has earned an afternoon at EPCOT.

J.A. Adande can be reached at To read more by Adande go to