What the Dodgers Should Do

Overview

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.

Budget

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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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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Alex Remington
Guest
5 years 11 months ago

If the Brewers ate some of his money, they could ship Randy Wolf back to Chavez Ravine. He certainly isn’t doing anyone any good in Milwaukee.

Chair
Guest
Chair
5 years 11 months ago

Strange, I came away from this article with no idea what it is the Dodgers should do.

The Dodgers are definitely still in contention in the NL west, and of course anything can happen in October. Still, it is hard for me to see this team winning it all.

To be honest part of me is intrigued by what the Dodgers could receive should they be deadline sellers. Manny and Kuroda would have suitors, though Kuroda has a no trade clause, not sure about Manny. With Furcal and Blake each signed through 11 with options for 12 I doubt they would be traded, however the team could be better off trading them and putting a Beltre, Hu left side of the infield for 2011. Hu could bridge the gap to Gordon whenever he is ready.

About that outfield, It wouldn’t hurt to listen to offers for Ethier and Kemp, as they are getting to a point where their contracts are not such a bargain, and the Dodgers system has outfield prospects at every level of the farm.

oompaloopma
Guest
oompaloopma
5 years 11 months ago

I think thats the point, if they buy there is not much they can improve. I think they need a number 1 instead of a number 4. I know their budget is in courts but they need to go after Cliff Lee to get over the hump, and maybe even a Lilly type at the number 5 spot. I dont see them winning the division if they continue with this roster. They are usually clutch players but i think they fall short of the playoffs this year unless they really BUY.

Miles
Guest
Miles
5 years 11 months ago

I agree that it wouldn’t hurt to listen to offers for Ethier and Kemp, but I don’t think it’s pertinent to do so right now. I don’t see a major-league ready OF prospect unless you’re talking about Xavier Paul, who has been benched in favor of Reed Johnson and Garret Anderson this year. They’re loaded with pitchers and have a few quality SS, but they really don’t have an impact bat at this point.

As for trading for a Cliff Lee, I think it would destroy the Dodgers’ system. The amount of talent it would take to aqcuire him would gut what’s left of a farm system that had Santana, Bell, and Abreu leave for questionable returns. While each individual deal may be defensible, the aggregate is a franchise devoid of impact ML-ready talent outside of McDonald and the MIA Elbert. There are some bullpen arms that can help, but I don’t see that being a problem just yet.

At this point, I think most upgrades that are affordable and feasible are really marginal. If the Dodgers can just stop playing Garret Anderson and maybe give Hu a biger try at 2B, there can be some immediate gains. However, with finances such a big question mark and in such a winnable division, they can’t give up Billingsley or Kershaw or other relatively cost-controlled assets for a one-year fix that doesn’t make them the best team in baseball.

Chair
Guest
Chair
5 years 11 months ago

Well yes, Paul could figures to fill part of the void left when Manny leaves, but long term he is probably more of a 4th outfielder, though a good one.

However the Dodgers have three of their top hitting propects all starting in their AA outfield in Andrew Lambo, Trayvon Robinson, and Kyle Russel. They also recently called up slugger Jerry Sands to AA where he is playing mostly 1st but also rf. To make room they sent down Scot Van Slyke who despite a ruff showing at AA remains a borderline prospect. In the lower levels they have Angelo Sonco, and the promising Jonathon Garcia.

I would definitely agree that it would be pre mature to trade Kemp or Ethier now, but it is something the Dodgers should open their minds to, for it very well may become necessary over the next few years.

Ivdown
Guest
Ivdown
5 years 11 months ago

The pitching staff is most DEFINITELY not the problem. The problem is usually the hitting, but the only real place to upgrade by far would be 1B, and Loney is hitting so well coupled with the fact that, like you said, Prince fielder would be much too expensive to go after, there are no upgrades to be made.

Furcal is on absolutely fire and has upped his average to .333, so he may be one of the top leadoff hitters in baseball this year. Ethier and Kemp are struggling, but Ethier always gets super hot then super cold, and then should stabilize pretty soon. Kemp has been on base 4 times today with 3 hits, 1 being a hr, I’m hoping it was a bust out game for him. Manny was mashing the ball before his injury, so hopefully he doesn’t go on the DL. If he does, Xavier Paul has done nothing but mash in AAA, so he should be a fine replacement, at least above average. Loney, like I said, has been doing very well, and has been the most consistently good hitter on the team this year.

Martin sucks, and so does dewitt with the bat. Blake is above average, but somewhat cold until that 2 run homer last night.

It would be nice to get someone like Cliff Lee to make the rotation from:

Kershaw
Billingsley
Kuroda
Ely
Padilla

to

Lee
Kershaw
Billingsley
Kuroda
Padilla (I assume Ely would go in the trade)

That rotation would rival any playoff team’s rotation. Right now, it’s still really good top 3, just not top of the line (though very underrated).

The bullpen has had it’s problems with sherrill being awful and troncoso being useless since April, but like the rotation, it’s improved greatly since April.

In short, there are a couple of positions they could upgrade at, but they would be better off standing pat with the team they have unless they go for a Prince Fielder (they won’t) or a front of the line starter (unlikely), and they will still have a good shot at the playoffs if they keep the team they have.

Their bullpen is up for a nice upgrade once they decide to give Kenley Jansen a chance at the MLB level. It’s his first year pitching (converted catcher), but he has a sick K:BB ratio this year. Can’t wait to see him in the MLB.

EHCIT
Guest
EHCIT
5 years 11 months ago

wowwwww, what is wrong with you?
anyone off the streets could realize that Ely is of too much importance to trade for a one year rental

Chair
Guest
Chair
5 years 11 months ago

I don’t think that is true. The M’s should be looking for an A prospect, one with enough upside to be a borderline star. Even the most optimistic Ely fan doesn’t project Ely to be more than a 3rd starter. I would much rather trade Ely than any of Withrow, Miller, Webster, or Martin.

The Dodgers could definitely afford to trade for Lee prospects wise, it really comes down to if their offer is the best (possible) and if the McCourts would pay his remaining salary (freaking hopefully). Even thought the Dodgers have been very badly burned by trading prospects for rentals (Carlos Santana, Edwin Jackson, Josh Bell) they should remember their successes (Larouche for Manny) and take heart in that they would be trading for the best lefty in the game.

Wow poor Phillies (Though I hate them really) could have had perhaps both the best righty and lefty starters in all of baseball.

Has one GM ever made so many bad decisions in such a short time as Rubin Amaro has in trading away Cliff Lee and signing Howard and Ibanez to terrible contracts? Answer, yes. Colletii. twice. In signing Schmidt, Pierre, , Gonzalez and Nomar (the second time) all before 07. He also let Jason Werth go that offseason. Also prior to 08 he signed Andruw Jones and later traded away Santana (though both of those moves may have been affected by the owner’s decisions).

Sorry for the length all, I am high.

Chair
Guest
Chair
5 years 11 months ago

I can’t tell if you were being sarcastic or something with your comment.

Ivdown
Guest
Ivdown
5 years 11 months ago

Lol. Ely might be what some would consider to be fools good. I hope not for the sake of him and the Dodgers if they keep him, but I’d MUCH rather trade him now while his value is the highest and get something good for him.

D4P
Guest
D4P
5 years 11 months ago

2010 WAR:

Reed Johnson: 0.8
Andre Ethier: 0.7

Trade Ethier now, before the entire league figures out how bad his defense is.

ChadMOKM
Member
5 years 11 months ago

If only WAR used more than one defensive statistic and more than a single year sample…

I mean…seriously.

Xeifrank
Guest
5 years 11 months ago

Has anyone done some analysis as to what kind of package it would realistically take to get Cliff Lee? I can’t really seeing money being the issue with Cliff Lee going to the Dodgers, as his salary is $9M? of which the Dodgers would be paying half a year of. I don’t think the McCourts would be in such financial disarray that they couldn’t fork out the extra $4.5M considering who it was.

Ely and Gordon would be two obvious candidates and I’m sure the Mariners would ask for one of the other Dodgers top young arms in the minors. Intriguing, but probably not worth the short rental since the Dodgers should have a decent shot at either winning the NL West or securing the WC without having to spend or deplete their system.

Walter Guest
Guest
Walter Guest
5 years 11 months ago

I think the Dodgers will win with what they have.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew
5 years 11 months ago

I hope the Dodgers make a run at Cliff Lee, and I can see them doing so, for a few reasons. First, Lee is owed about $4.5 million for the remainder of 2010, so money shouldn’t be the problem. As far as prospects go, even though the Mariners have said that they want a major-league ready prospect in return, I think the Dodgers have more than enough talent at the lower-levels to make a deal. Would the Mariners rather get, say, Wilson Ramos and change from the Twins for Lee, or several low-level, high potential prospects from the Dodgers, such as Chris Withrow, Ethan Martin, Ivan DeJesus Jr., and Josh Lindblom. I don’t know about Jack Zduriencik, but I would take the latter because they have a hell of a lot more potential between the lot of then than Wilson Ramos does.

Matt
Guest
Matt
5 years 11 months ago

Couldn’t they trade for a acceptable defensive OF, and move Ethier to 1B? Just an idea.

stolenbases
Guest
stolenbases
5 years 11 months ago

The Dodgers will probably win the NL West with what they have (I am still not sold on the Padres), but struggle in the playoffs once again. If they could somehow obtain Cliff Lee, their ceiling improves to an NL pennant considering how weak the senior circuit is.

neoncactus
Guest
neoncactus
5 years 11 months ago

I think the Dodgers might add a starter along the lines of Lilly or Westbrook, but not Lee. I don’t see them gutting the farm for Lee, when you know McCourt is not going to be the highest bidder in the offseason. If you gut the farm system, I would think you’d have to commit to doing what it takes to re-sign Lee, even if he turns out to be the next Jason Schmidt or Kevin Brown. I don’t see them outbidding the Twins or the Rangers for Lee.

But if the Dodgers can win the division and Manny is healthy and hitting like he was before getting hurt, I think we have a decent shot to win the NL. Depending on how things finish up, we could be facing the Reds, Braves, and either Mets, Padres or Cards as the wild card (or we could end up the wild card ourselves). But if our offense is healthy and playing well, we can keep pace or outhit those other teams, and if Kershaw, Billz and Kuroda get on a roll and pitch well, they could potentially win. On paper, they shouldn’t have been able to beat Carpenter and Wainwright last year, or the Cubs the year before that.

I just hope they are in a position to find out!

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