Trade market wide open with Dodgers far from done
PHOENIX -- At first blush, the Rickey Nolasco deal has worked out very well for the Dodgers.
The right-hander, who was obtained in a trade with the Marlins this past weekend, shut down the D-backs on four hits in a 6-1 victory on Tuesday night at Chase Field.
But here's a warning to their rivals in the National League West: The Dodgers are not done dealing with the non-waiver Trade Deadline only 22 days away and the waiver trade deadline looming on Sept. 1.
"I think we're always looking," Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said after the Dodgers won for the 14th time in their last 17 games to pull within a game of .500 and 2 1/2 games of first-place Arizona. "Pitching always becomes a priority this time of year. You're going to get to a stage when you can't do something when you may need to do something.
"Without knowing what you're going to need you have to support it ahead of time and see if you can continue to add to the group."
Translated, Matt Garza of the Cubs and Yovani Gallardo of the Brewers are still available -- to name two prime candidates -- and the Dodgers are still seriously shopping.
Meanwhile, despite holes in their starting rotation as deep as caverns, the D-backs seem content to stand pat. Ian Kennedy hasn't appeared to be a semblance of the staff anchor he was two years ago when he won 21 games and the D-backs went to the playoffs. He's winless in his last six starts dating back to June 1, including loss No. 5 on Tuesday night, and it's hard to imagine the D-backs winning the division title unless the right-hander straightens out or is replaced.
"I don't want to put it all on one guy. It has to be a team effort," D-backs general manager Kevin Towers said as the game was winding down. "If Kennedy's throwing the ball well it probably improves our chances, but I'm not giving up on anybody at this point. I'm not going to say we have no chance just because he's not throwing the ball as well as 2011."
Towers said he's banking on the return after the break of the injured Brandon McCarthy and Trevor Cahill, who were hardly effective before they were hurt. Otherwise the rotation is full of youngsters: Right-hander Randall Delgado and lefties Patrick Corbin, Tyler Skaggs and Wade Miley.
Corbin is an All-Star at 10-1. Skaggs has been riding the shuttle up and down from the Minors. And Miley's 5-7 sophomore season has hardly echoed his 16-11 rookie campaign.
Towers has been battling a severe case of laryngitis. His right vocal cord was paralyzed just after last month's First-Year Player Draft by a still unidentified virus. His voice has just begun to clear up in recent days, but his thought process is crystal clear. He's not going to trade his youngsters for the veteran pitchers the Dodgers are evidently chasing.
"I don't see much front-line pitching really out there," Towers said. "Some of the front-line pitching is two month, three month rentals. We don't control them beyond this year. For us to move some of our top guys, I don't see any of the guys out there to be huge difference makers that are going to separate us from the rest of the pack."
The Dodgers, with money to burn under their latest ownership group, are taking the alternate tact. Unlike a few other teams mentioned in the Nolasco stakes, the Dodgers weren't afraid to inherent the remainder of his $11.5 million contract for a three-month rental. The Los Angeles native can become a free agent this winter.
Colletti confirmed on Tuesday night that to be the case, bringing the Dodgers player payroll in excess of $220 million. And they're not done yet.
The Dodgers began the season with seven competent veteran starters ranging from Clayton Kershaw to Aaron Harang, who they quickly traded to the Rockies. In short order, Chad Billingsly and Josh Beckett went out for the season and Zach Greinke lost a month with a dislocated collarbone suffered in his early-season fight with San Diego's Carlos Quentin. Ted Lilly has been sidelined throughout with shoulder and neck injuries and is now ticketed for the bullpen if he can pitch at all. Chris Capuano has also had his two stints on the DL.
The Dodgers recently started to play well, identified a need and went for the gusto. Last year it was Joe Blanton, Brandon League, Shane Victorino, Hanley Ramirez and the Aug. 25 piece de resistance deal with the Red Sox that brought in Becket, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Nick Punto. This year it has already begun with Nolasco.
"We're not shy," Colletti said. "We've never been shy in July and August."
Particularly since the current group bought the club from Frank McCourt for $2.15 billion on May 1, 2012. Beforehand they had to be creative, as in 2008 when the Red Sox ate the contract of Manny Ramirez just to rid him from their clubhouse. That August and September in L.A., Manny batted .396 with 17 homers and 53 RBIs. The D-backs let the Dodgers hang around long enough to lose the division to them by two games.
Lesson learned? This year, the D-backs again let the Dodgers hang around long enough to catch up, albeit much earlier in the season. This year again the Dodgers are playing the market. Towers said on Monday night that he's not concerned about what the Dodgers do to enhance their roster.
"I don't worry about the rest of the division," he said. "I just worry about our own club."
But what the Dodgers accomplish certainly impacts the D-backs. Ownership said it intended to turn the Dodgers into winners no matter the cost. So far, it is making good on that promise. No wonder Colletti is a happy GM. There's more pitching out there. The Dodgers could use a closer and No. 5 starter. The buffet is wide open. What's their pleasure?
"You can't be that particular," Colletti said. "If we have somebody who can help our staff or help our position players, we'll take a shot at it."
It's Christmas in July and the next step is winning it all.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow@boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.