Saturday, July 10, 2010

Best move for the Dodgers? No move

As the July 31 trade deadline approaches, a flurry of action is bound to happen. Cliff Lee, the top prize in this year's trade market, was traded to the Texas Rangers on Friday.

The Dodgers were said to be in on Lee, but the Mariners wanted a package of James Loney or Chad Billinglsey plus prospects. The M's did get a nice return on Lee, acquiring first baseman Justin Smoak and three prospects. That's better than the Indians did last season when Lee was shipped to Philadelphia.

So what should the Dodgers do to improve the pitching staff? Not a damn thing, unless they're willing to take on money.

However, it's clear Frank McCourt's financial situation will not allow the Dodgers to do so, which makes it all but impossible to land a difference-making starting pitcher. Roy Oswalt would be nice, but he's owed the rest of his $15M salary for this season, $16M in 2011 and a club option for $16M in 2012 (with a $2M buyout). Needless to say, Oswalt won't be a Dodger anytime soon.

Dan Haren would be even nicer. He's signed to a reasonable contract (still too much for the Dodgers to add) and would cost a lot in prospects.

Other than that, there aren't many top-of-the-rotation starters available. The Dodgers should just stand pat with budding ace Clayton Kershaw, Hiroki Kuroda and Chad Billingsley.

The bullpen has been an issue this season. Last season's deadline acquisition, George Sherrill, has been absolutely dreadful. He currently owns a 7.32 ERA and 2.24 WHIP. Is there any way the Dodgers could have Josh Bell back?

Ronald Belisario just went on the restricted list due to substance abuse. Belisario was a surprise last season, when he had an ERA of 2.04 and 1.15 WHIP. He seemed to be finding his 2009 form before hitting the restricted list.

Ramon Troncoso, who threw 82 2/3 innings of solid relief for the Dodgers last season, has a 5.15 ERA and was optioned to AAA earlier this week.

That leaves two reliable relievers in the pen: All-Star Jonathan Broxton and All-Star snub Hong-Chih Kuo. The Dodgers are reluctant to throw Kuo on consecutive days and Broxton is already being overworked.

Ned Colletti's MO has been to trade for relief pitching near or at the deadline (Sherrill in 2009, Scott Proctor in 2007), but there is really no need to do it this season. Kenley Jansen is lighting it up in AA, while James McDonald and Josh Lindblom could be recalled from AAA to be servicable middle relievers. These guys wouldn't cost the Dodgers prospects or money.

Now if the Dodgers surprise everyone and are able to take on payroll, then go for it. Make a play for Roy Oswalt or Dan Haren. The Diamondbacks are not opposed to trading within the division -- especially with the Dodgers.

The Dodgers acquired Steve Finley in 2004 and came really close to getting Randy Johnson in the same deal. The next off-season, the Dodgers acquired Dioner Navarro and prospects for Shawn Green.

What would it take to get Haren? Well, let's just say no one in the Dodger farm system should be untouchable. The one guy I'd be most reluctant to deal is Aaron Miller. Others would say Dee Gordon, but I really like Miller.

But that's just a pipe dream. The Dodgers should just stand pat and go with what they have. If they make the playoffs, great. Maybe they can make it back to the NLCS or even further. If not, then the Dodgers will be able to focus on 2011.

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