The Dodgers are in second place, three games behind the division leading Padres. They’re a game ahead of the Rockies, who I suggested yesterday should be buyers. They won the NL West a year ago, and have mostly the same team back for 2010. This should be a pretty easy decision, right? Unfortunately for Dodger fans, the situation is complicated.
Buy or Sell
Given the team’s place in the standings and the talent on the roster, we can cross “sell” off the list of options in July. Theoretically, they should be buyers, but can they be, and if so, what should they be buying?
The divorce of the McCourts hangs over the entire organization, and while team officials continue to insist that it doesn’t affect their finances, it’s hard to take them seriously after they declined to offer arbitration to any of their free agents and failed to make any meaningful improvements to the roster.
The presumption is, and will likely continue to be, that the team is broke, and can’t afford to take on much in the way of salary. Given the players that are generally available in July, that’s a problem.
There are quite a few players who would make sense for the Dodgers if they could go shopping. They need a back-end starter to give them reliable innings behind the trio of Clayton Kershaw, Hiroki Kuroda, and Chad Billingsley, and that’s probably the asset that is most available via trade. Whether its Kevin Millwood, Jake Westbrook, or Ted Lilly, there are quite a few potential #4 starters who could be had for something less than the ransom that a guy like Cliff Lee will demand.
Unfortunately for the Dodgers, all three of those pitchers make significant money this year, and they would likely have to ask the GM on the other side of things to pick up a substantial amount of salary in any deal. The last time the Dodgers made that kind of deal, they shipped Carlos Santana to the Indians – whoops. They may not be eager to essentially sell off a young player again after getting burned so badly the last time, especially for a guy who would essentially be a rented role player and may not put them over the top anyway.
After all, this Dodgers roster has some problems that aren’t easily fixed. The outfield defense is awful, but they can’t afford to lose the offense provided by Manny Ramirez, Matt Kemp, or Andre Ethier in order to upgrade the glovework. They could use a better first baseman than James Loney, but outside of Prince Fielder, there’s probably not a guy out there who would make a big enough difference, and again, Fielder is pricey.
In reality, the Dodgers just need some of their own guys to play better. They can tweak the roster, but they can’t do anything to completely fix it until they have money to spend, and that makes giving up prospects to supplement a half-built playoff team less palatable than is usually the case for a team this close to October baseball.
On The Farm
The Dodgers system has talent, but it’s mostly in the lower levels of the system, which will also hurt their ability to make deals. Even top prospect Dee Gordon is more tools than production at this point, even though he’s made it to Double-A. Considering that the Dodgers are likely going to ask other teams to pay the freight for high salaried players, there may not be enough in the system for them to convince a team to make that kind of move.
The big unknown. The divorce makes it impossible to assume anything about the ability of the organization to add payroll, so the best we can do is guess that they’ll maintain the status quo.
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