With the prospect of losing out in the Jeff Weaver sweepstakes increasing by the day, the Dodgers traded for a starting pitcher Wednesday, acquiring Jae Seo from the New York Mets for right-handed relievers Duaner Sanchez and Steve Schmoll.
The Dodgers also picked up left-handed reliever Tim Hamulack in the deal, which General Manager Ned Colletti said had been percolating over the holidays.
Seo, 28, was 8-2 with a 2.59 earned-run average last season and is inexpensive. He will make less than $400,000 this season and will be eligible for arbitration in a year.
Seo was 9-12 in 31 starts as a rookie in 2003 and 5-10 in 21 starts in 2004. He has spent time at triple-A Norfolk in four of the last five seasons.
"He's a no-frills guy, a determined type of guy," Colletti said. "He won't overpower you."
The price was steep. Sanchez, 26, finished last season as the Dodger closer, converting all eight of his save opportunities. He made 146 appearances the last two seasons, mostly in a set-up role, and last season had 71 strikeouts in 82 innings.
Dodger coaches last season discussed converting Sanchez to a starter, but Colletti said there was "a lot of indecision whether that would work out."
Schmoll, a submarine thrower, had a 5.01 ERA in 48 appearances as a rookie. The Dodgers also elected not to re-sign Giovanni Carrara, who made 72 appearances, meaning three relievers who totaled 199 appearances last season have left the staff.
"It was tough to trade" Sanchez and Schmoll, Colletti said. "Sanchez won't be easily replaced. But our need for a starting pitcher was greater than the need for a bullpen piece. I've got some young arms that will have an opportunity to pitch in the bullpen.
"A starting pitcher is the most valuable commodity out there. Seo was very successful last year."
Yhency Brazoban, Jonathan Broxton and Franquelis Osoria are the top right-handed candidates to set up closer Eric Gagne. Brazoban was uneven filling in for Gagne last season, and rookies Broxton and Osoria had moderate success during short stints with the Dodgers.
The Dodgers might sign free-agent Jim Brower, a veteran reliever who pitched for the San Francisco Giants during Colletti's tenure as assistant general manager.
The Dodgers also might use Edwin Jackson as a long reliever, Colletti said. Jackson was considered the team's top pitching prospect until last season when he struggled at triple-A and was 2-2 with a 6.28 ERA with the Dodgers.
Colletti wants Chad Billingsley, who is now considered the top Dodger pitching prospect, to begin the season at triple-A. Jackson and D.J. Houlton -- the Dodger No. 5 starter last season -- also could open the season in the minors.
Re-signing Weaver, a free agent who was 14-11 in 224 innings, remains a possibility, but Colletti said the asking price must drop. The Dodgers have until Sunday to sign Weaver.
Hamulack, 29, joins Kelly Wunsch and rookie Hong Chih Kuo as potential left-handed set-up relievers. He made six appearances for the Mets in September, and was shelled for five runs by the Philadelphia Phillies in less than an inning Sept. 28. He posted a 1.14 ERA in 64 minor league innings.
The Dodgers will be Hamulack's seventh organization since he was drafted by Houston in 1995.
"He throws hard and has come on well the past few years," Colletti said.
Besides continuing to negotiate with Weaver, the Dodgers will spend the next few days assembling Manager Grady Little's coaching staff. Rick Honeycutt, the Dodger roving minor league pitching instructor, is expected to be the pitching coach and Dave Jauss is expected to become bench coach or third base coach.
Jauss, who has close ties to Little, has served as an advance scout, player development director and first base coach for the Boston Red Sox. He was credited with developing the scouting report on the St. Louis Cardinals before the 2004 World Series, which the Red Sox swept.