Obamaclaus brings you the L.A. Dodgers preview

Not sure what President Barack Obama has to do with either the Los Angeles Dodgers or Santa Claus but I digress with another preview.

Hopefully "Obama Claus" brings Dodgers owner Frank McCourt some extra loot this offseason because they desperately need savior and resident wacko Manny Ramirez to return.

Okay, perhaps they don't NEED Ramirez back. The lineup is quite potent with youngsters Matt Kemp, Andre Eithier, James Loney and Russell Martin but Ramirez provides extra lineup protection and puts butts in the seats at Dodger Stadium.

This is really the key to the offseason for the L.A. blue other than replacing Derek Lowe's spot in the rotation after he departed for greener pastures in Atlanta.

Payroll flexibility shouldn't be a huge issue either as second baseman Jeff Kent's contract is off the books, ditto Lowe.

The Andruw Jones experiment is over after one injury riddled, mess of a season and although the Dodgers are still on the hook for $21 million next year, 16 of that will be deferred over a span of a few years like a bad credit card spending spree.

While in theory in doesn't save Los Angeles any money in the long run, it does give them instant flexibility to add another player this season. In terms of free agents, Ramirez has to figure to be the first choice especially after resigning Casey Blake and Rafael Furcal. They'll also need a second baseman but it isn't a position of worry nor should it be for the Dodgers deep lineup.

Ramirez is key because he is a draw for crowds who have a million things more interesting to do than watch baseball during the weekends. He brings the star power needed to be successful in a big market like Los Angeles but it was also a win-win situation because Manny could be Manny in an area where the media and fans aren't as ruthless.

All this being said, I wouldn't go more than three years on him because you never know when he'll leave the game mentally and become a poison for the team like he was toward the end in Boston. He is also 36-years-old.

Even if the Dodgers are unable to sign him, they are still the primary contender for the NL West title. This team has a great manager in Joe Torre and a young core throughout the lineup mixed with a rotation on the upswing with 20-year-old phenom Clayton Kershaw and 24-year-old Chad Billingsley.

The major issue at hand other than Ramirez is simply finding an innings eater like Lowe was. He tossed 211 innings last season to the tune of a 3.24 ERA. Jon Garland comes to mind as an obvious candidate because he is from the west coast (Valencia, Calif.) and he would be best suited for a National League club in a pitchers park.

It won't take a lot of additions for the Dodgers to have the opportunity to win the NL West again but advancing to a World Series is reliant on all their young players taking the extra step much like the young guns of the New York Yankees Dynasty in the '90s.