We’ve mentioned this possibility in passing a few times, but now today there’s this from Ken Gurnick and his unfortunately-named blog:
The collapse of the free-agent market has dropped second baseman Orlando Hudson’s contract demands to a level that interests the Dodgers, and general manager Ned Colletti confirmed Wednesday that talks are ongoing.
Colletti said he has payroll “flexibility” unrelated to efforts to sign Manny Ramirez which Colletti said continue, He added that interest in Hudson does not mean he lacks confidence in Blake DeWitt, who came into Spring Training as the incumbent second baseman after the retirement of Jeff Kent.
“I’m big on inventory,” Colletti said.
Inventory’s nice, but is it worth it in this case? Hudson is probably looking for between $4-$5m on a one-year deal, which is a steal for a first-time free agent who made $6.25m last year, the fourth year in a row in which his OPS+ improved. Plus, while he’s no longer the defensive vaccuum he once was, he’d still be a huge improvement over Jeff Kent, and probably also over the mostly untested Blake DeWitt with the glove.
So hey, why not take advantage of the down economy like the women I saw ransacking Old Navy’s 75% off sale this weekend?
Well, the big problem would be that Hudson is a Type A free agent, which means that signing him would send the 17th pick in the first round of the 2009 draft directly to the division rival Diamondbacks. That may not seem like much, but keep in mind that other 17th overall picks in the last fifteen years have included Cole Hamels, David Murphy, LA’s own Scott Elbert, Brad Lidge, and Roy Halladay. Is that the kind of lottery ticket we want to be handing to the main competition in the division for just one year of Hudson?
Besides, while Hudson would most likely be an upgrade over DeWitt, what would the cost of displacing DeWitt be? Sure, Hudson will outperform DeWitt in 2009. But when both were 22, as DeWitt was last year, both players put up nearly identical OPS (.727 vs .730). The main difference, of course, is that while DeWitt was doing it in the bigs, Hudson was doing it in single and double A ball. I have no idea what kind of player DeWitt will turn out to be, but I do know that I’m very interested in finding out.
Now, there is one other option in which both Hudson and DeWitt could stay on the field, and that’s to shift DeWitt back to third base and push Casey Blake out to left field. It’s certainly not an ideal situation, but swapping out Juan Pierre for Hudson in the lineup is without question a huge win. Of course, that presupposes that Manny Ramirez won’t be returning to town, and in that case, ending up with Hudson instead of Adam Dunn or Bobby Abreu (both superior hitters who wouldn’t cost a draft pick) would have to be seen as a huge failure.
So, sure, Hudson’s a good player. He’d probably even help the team in 2009. But I just can’t stomach sending a first round pick to a division rival for one year of (likely) impeding DeWitt’s development. Pass.