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Saturday Rockpile: NL West shakin' up

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I'm not sure how the departure of Jeff Moorad from the Diamondbacks to (he hopes) the Padres will affect the rest of the division. D-backs fans tended to see Moorad as a liability for their club and put responsibility for the worst of the Snakes' moves over the last three seasons (the Eric Byrnes extension, for instance) at his feet rather than those of GM-for-life Josh Byrnes or new CEO Derrick Hall. Now that the fall guy has left, will the Snakes turn into the smartly run Red Sox-lite type of organization their fans seek, or will J. Byrnes and Hall be exposed as well meaning, but altogether average baseball execs? As a fan of a rival, I'm obviously hoping for the latter (or worse, actually) but it should be an interesting story to watch develop.

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One of my tropes this winter has been that the Dodgers have been acting like a team facing a budget shortfall, from the comments by ownership and their early lowball stance on Manny Ramirez, to the back-loaded Rafael Furcal contract, to not being anywhere to be found when the best pitchers on the market were getting snapped up despite having a glaring hole in their starting rotation. Now with Andruw Jones' contract being re-worked to save the Dodgers $12 million this season, we have evidence that goes beyond the circumstantial. There's a lot about this situation that fascinates me. Both the Dodgers and Scott Boras have to claim that the Jones renegotiation and Manny Ramirez situations are separate, as otherwise they set themselves up for conflict of interest complaints by the players union or other concerned parties (the rest of the division, for instance) even though it's pretty clear the two situations are inter-related.

It does look at this point that the Dodgers will be able to proceed in their pursuit of Ramirez as the next puzzle piece to reconstructing last season's magic. Signing Ramirez should give them claim to the division's strongest looking lineup, but in the same way that their talented looking rotation doesn't hold up to a projected innings pitched test, this lineup when you project out plate appearances looks somewhat fragile and Loretta/Pierre/Young as primary bench options doesn't really impress me. I'm really wondering what kind of season Russell Martin is in for after being used so extensively in 2008. DeWitt at second base seems somewhat equivalent to McDonald in the rotation for them, in that Dodger fans' expectations for the rookie don't seem to always jive with realistic projections. Blake could become a downright hole at third if his power starts to fade. Ramirez himself can be an impact player, clearly he was in 2008, but the fact that no team except for the Dodgers really sees him as an upgrade worth actively pursuing should be a signal that his best years are also behind him. The Dodgers will likely benefit from this signing in 2009, but in subsequent seasons? Not so much, it's clearly a win now, pay later move.