Dodgers’ cost at winter meetings not an arm and a leg, just 2 arms

When the Dodgers departed from baseball’s winter meetings Thursday, Roy Halladay still belonged to the Blue Jays. Joel Pineiro and Jon Garland were still free agents.

But the Dodgers didn’t leave without adding a couple of pitchers to their roster: Carlos Monasterios and Armando Zerpa.

Never heard of them?

You’re probably not alone, which is probably why the Dodgers had to spend only about $120,000 to acquire them in a couple of player-for-cash swaps with the New York Mets and Tampa Bay Rays.

Based on what General Manager Ned Colletti said, Monasterios and Zerpa weren’t acquired to replace Randy Wolf, who officially parted ways with the Dodgers when he agreed to a three-year, $29.75-million contract with the Milwaukee Brewers. But the two Venezuelans, who have never pitched in the major leagues, will get every chance to earn places on the opening-day roster, as the Dodgers could risk losing them if they aren’t on their 25-man roster for the entire 2010 season.

That the Dodgers’ entire haul for the winter meetings consisted of two pitchers who have never pitched above double A -- three, counting minor leaguer Raul Burgos -- is a sign of stability, Colletti said.

Colletti reported that he didn’t make any significant progress in his attempts to deal Juan Pierre or acquire Halladay. He remained on the periphery of the free-agent market. He departed from the meetings still needing a starting pitcher, preferably two, and a second baseman.

But he was fine with that.

“Our needs are less now,” Colletti said. “They’re still prominent, especially on the pitching side, but they’re less.”

He was comparing the Dodgers to where they were last year, when they went into the winter meetings with three-quarters of their infield in flux, their rotation looking even worse than it does now and Manny Ramirez unsigned.

Colletti signed Casey Blake at last year’s winter meetings. He set the groundwork to sign Rafael Furcal later that month.

He was not nearly as active this year.

“I’ve spent less time in the lobby than I ever have,” Colletti said of part of the hotel where team executives, scouts, agents and reporters gather to chat.

Colletti said Thursday that the Dodgers will tender contracts to all of the arbitration-eligible players under their control, guaranteeing that seven of their eight position players will be back next season.

That means Russell Martin, whose production has steadily decreased over the last two seasons, will get a raise from the $3.9 million he earned this year. And that Hong-Chih Kuo, who has acknowledged that every pitch he throws could be his last, will probably become a millionaire as a reward for how he risked his four-times-operated elbow over the last two years.

Matt Kemp should earn more than $4 million and Andre Ethier more than $7 million. So money will be spent.

The question is whether enough will be spent.

In recent seasons, the Dodgers have been able to stretch their dollars in large part because of their ability to unearth underpriced commodities such as Takashi Saito, Chan Ho Park, Jeff Weaver and Ronald Belisario.

That brings us back to Monasterios and Zerpa. As was the case with their countryman Belisario this time last year, the two Venezuelans have never pitched in the big leagues, which is partly why they were available on Thursday in something called the Rule 5 draft.

The draft exists to prevent players from being stockpiled in the minor leagues for too long if there are other teams willing to have them on their major-league rosters. Stay in the minors long enough without being added to your organization’s 40-man roster and you’ll become eligible.

Because the Dodgers were 24th in the draft order, they arranged for the Mets to take Monasterios, who was in the Phillies organization. Then, they had the Rays select Zerpa, who was in the Red Sox organization. The Dodgers handed over more than $60,000 in cash for each player.

Here’s the catch: unless the Dodgers keep them on their roster for the entire season, they have to offer them back to their original clubs. Few Rule 5 picks pan out. But Colletti thinks they have a chance.

Monasterios is one of the top pitchers in the Venezuelan winter league this year. Zerpa posted a 1.20 earned-run average in his 22-game stint in Double-A Greenville this year.

And the scout who recommended the Dodgers acquire the duo? Ron Rizzi, the same scout who pushed Colletti to sign Belisario last winter.