Hot Stove Helper: Short-term contracts in a short-term town

Throughout January and February (okay, and March), we're reviewing offseason MLB transactions that have fantasy implications, and we're going team-by-team. This isn't quite like Hot Stove Daily. The focus here is limited. We're only looking at ownable fantasy players who've found new employers.

Los Angeles Dodgers

We can't be sure that the Dodgers will be formidable in 2009 but they're sure to be interesting, and in LA that's half the battle. There are plenty of soap-opera themes ready to roll.

Will Manny Ramirez stay happy for the balance of the season now that he's finally signed, sealed and delivered? Is there enough depth in the pitching staff, especially in the rotation? Can Rafael Furcal stay in one piece? Will the Dodgers be able to find a taker for disgruntled outfielder Juan Pierre? How soon is now for talented young arms Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw? Will Russell Martin be able to withstand the crazy workload thrust upon him?

Alas, I'm getting off topic here - the aim of our HSH series is to discuss the new players coming down the Pacific Coast Highway. Let's have a look at the two other notable signings the Dodgers made, and then we'll take a broader look at the ballclub.

Signed 2B Orlando Hudson to a one-year contract

The Dodgers were patient on this one and got a reasonable deal, landing Hudson for a base of $3.4 million, plus incentives. The Hudson addition pushes Blake DeWitt and Mark Loretta (an earlier signing from the winter) to the bench, and while Hudson isn't the wizard at second base that he's portrayed to be, he's still a plus defender.

Fantasy-wise, I don't think there's a lot to be jazzed about with Hudson. For a guy who's got decent wheels, he's never developed into a threat on the bases (career-high for steals is a modest 10). He's scored more than 73 runs once, his career average of .282 is solid but doesn't really move the needle, he's got 10-12 homer power but you're not going to get anything substantially above that. And given the depth of the Dodgers lineup, Hudson will likely open the year batting seventh or eighth. That's a death sentence in the National League.

Signed Randy Wolf to a one-year contract

Wolf was outstanding in his home dates last year, rolling up 86 strikeouts and a 2.98 ERA in San Diego and Houston, but things fell apart when he took to the road (3-7 record, 5.76 ERA, 1.51 WHIP). It was surprising to see Wolf stay in one piece for 33 turns, given he averaged just 16 starts per season over the previous four years. Wolf didn't win anyone a trophy in his first go-round with the Dodgers, that's for sure (4.73 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 18 starts back in 2007).

In the Pulp Fiction world, you solve your problems by bringing in Winston Wolf. I can't imagine how much Randy Wolf is going to boost the LA staff, especially when he inevitably breaks down in the middle of the year and needs to be replaced. Don't go past $3-4 dollars in the NL-only world, and mixed leaguers need to shoot much higher than this.

LA Stories: Pierre has requested a trade, realizing that he's the fourth option and the NL doesn't allow a short fielder. The $28 million remaining on his contract isn't going to make a swap any easier, and he's looked terrible at the plate thus far this spring . . . Batting order protection is a much-debated (and argued) topic around baseball; some feel there's something to the theme, even if it's hard to prove through the numbers, while others feel there's an open-and-shut case here, it's a myth. Andre Ethier fans would like to believe in the theory; he went absolutely ballistic (.368/.448/.649) for the last two months of 2008, coinciding with the trade for Manny Ramirez. It's likely that Ethier will stay parked in front of Ramirez to open the new season . . . So far, so good for Billingsley, who's rebounding from a broken leg (requiring surgery) in November . . . Eric Milton and Jason Schmidt are contending for the final rotation spot, if you wanted to know. It's Schmidt's job to lose if he can prove he's healthy, but considering the guy has made just six starts since the Dodgers threw that ridiculous contract at him two years ago, I wouldn't hold your breath. Prospect James McDonald might get rushed into a position if both of the veterans slip up here . . . Dodger Stadium has a reputation of being a pitcher paradise, but that's not how it's played out in recent years. Scoring has been just a shade under average at Chavez Ravine over the last three seasons, and the park has actually given a modest boost to power hitters over that span . . . Highly-regarded shortstop prospect Ivan DeJesus broke his left tibia last week and is expected to miss four months . . . The Dodgers staff showed excellent control in 2008; only the Diamondbacks issued fewer free passes. So I guess it's true what they say - nobody walks in LA.

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