Sunday, August 1, 2010

Deadline Data---or, Death by Divorce

    By Ross Newhan

  So, after Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Roy Oswalt and a couple other big boys had left the room, Dodger general manager Ned Colletti found enough cash amid the lawyer bills to acquire Ted Lilly from the Chicago Cubs, and I have two words in reaction: Randy Wolf.

  Lilly and Wolf are the same left handed pitchers whose careers span the same years with virtually the same records--Lilly is 106-92 and Wolf is 108-94--and if the Dodgers had re-signed the arbitration eligible Wolf going into the season, Manager Joe Torre wouldn't have had to call on Charlie Haeger, Carlos Monasterios and John Ely, among others, as often as he has.

   Of course, that arbitration factor hovered over Colletti like the black cloud of the Frank and Jamie McCourt divorce proceedings, and it was certainly a factor as the Milwaukee Brewers found the medical reports to be good reading and signed Wolf to a whopping three year, $29.75 million contract.

   Not surprisingly, perhaps, Wolf has battled another season of injuries and is 7-9 with a 5.07 earned-run average. Would it have been the same in L.A.? Who knows? The one certainty is the Dodgers have needed another veteran arm from the start, and, with the deadline clock ticking, the Cubs were willing to kick in $2.5 million to off-set the roughly $6 million that Lilly is owed the rest of the way, and now the Dodgers have a Wolf clone who arrives with a 3-8 record but a very good ERA of 3.69.

   As Frank and Jamie keep going through their rolodexes to try and find another friend willing to make a loan of, say, a few hundred thousand, and as Commissioner Bud Selig watches scornfully from Milwaukee, give Colletti credit.

   If it isn't already too late, post-season speaking, Lilly should help.

   So should the acquisitions of 1) aggressive and versatile base stealers Scott Podsednik and Ryan Theriot to help plug the gap of the now-you-see-him, now-you-don't Manny Ramirez (among other gaps), and 2) Octavio Dotel, who seems to start just about every season as somebody's closer (it was Pittsburgh this year) before losing his job.

  Cynicism aside, the beleagured Colletti (even the Pirates had to kick in money on the Dotel deal) deserves a ray of sunlight under that black cloud.

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    Can you imagine what the Texas Rangers might have accomplished the last few weeks if the creditors weren't howling and someone (anyone) knew who was going to end up as the new owner?

    I mean, a court conducted auction is scheduled Wednesday and that might not even decide it.

    Amid the uncertainty, would-be co-owner Nolan Ryan continues to provide an imposing presence as the club president (and associate pitching coach), and young general manager Jon Daniels routs his older rivals in the Executive of the Year race.

    The Rangers nabbed Lee, the market's best pitcher, while other general managers were only thinking about making their first calls, and then added a series of important ancillary pieces: catcher Bengie Molina, first baseman Jorge Cantu and shortstop Christian Guzman to replace injured Ian Kinsler at second base.

    The race in the AL West? Maybe the Angels can start a new streak next year.

                                                            * * *

    While the Boston Red Sox were forced to settle for the addition of catcher Jason Saltalamacchia, the New York Yankees were conducting the George Steinbrenner Memorial Raid on the Market.

     Without giving up a significant prospect, the Yankees merely added Lance Berkman to give Mark Texeira some left handed assistance in destroying the shallow right field fence at new Yankee Stadium, acquired veteran Austin Kearns for the bench and nabbed a potential set-up sleeper in Kerry Wood.

      If Wood stays healthy he still has the ability to turn the Yankees biggest weakness (maybe they edited the Joba rules too soon)  into a significant strength.

                                                         * * *


      All that talk about still playing for this year and catching Texas was probably just that---talk. The Angels waited far too long in trying to fill the first and third base power gaps, then were stiffed by Derrek Lee before acquiring the power-less Alberto Callapso to play third base and serve as a backup next year.

     Dan Haren? A terrific addition for the next two years and he only costs Arte Moreno about $32 million.

    Then again, as a buddy, Tim Wheaton, points out, Arte doesn't own the Angels, the Red Sox do.

     Boston usually waits until October to prove it, but this season they were 7-0 vs. Anaheim, and neither team is likely to see October.

                                                          * * *


        Oh, wouldn't San Francisco have loved Cory Hart--or Adam Dunn or Jose Bautista or any proven hitter, but they settled for two decent bullpen arms in Javier Lopez and Ramon Ramirez, and for the Giants it remains strictly an arms race.

                                                      * * *  


          The July deadline was expected to find the San Diego Padres out of the race and trading their two most valuable pawns, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and closer Heath Bell. Both are free agent eligible, but the pitching dominating Padres surprising performance in leading the NL West has prompted (forced?) new owner Jeff Moorad to retain both and enhance 1) a $38 million payroll (29th among 30 teams) and 2) a generally powerless offense by acquiring Ryan Ludwick from St. Louis and Miguel Tejada from Baltimore.

         The acquisitions don't turn the Padres lineup into a Murderer's Row all of a sudden.

         The key question down the stretch: Can Matt Latos (10-1 in his last 14 starts) and the core of their young rotation exceed previous career highs for innings pitched.      

                                              * * *


        It is a rare occurrence no matter how many times GMs use the cliche about a trade helping both teams, but the Minnesota/Washington trade probably did just that.

       The Twins acquired a proven closer in Matt Capps, returning Jon Rauch to a more comfortable set up role, and the Nationals, with Drew Storen ready to replace Capps, acquired one of baseball's top catching prospects in Wilson Ramos.

       The Twins remain competitive almost every year because of their farm system, hating to give up prospects of the Ramos stature, but with Joe Mauer they won't need another starting catcher until they need another new ballpark.

                                                  * * *


         The Houston Astros had reached the point where they weren't going anywhere with veterans Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman, and both veterans had reached the point where they were aching for a chance to win, and now they have it--Oswalt with Philadelphia and Berkman with the Yankees.

         The Astros are generally conservative with their prospects, but they will ask the touted Brett Wallace to fill Berkman's first base role immediately. Wallace has acknowledged power, but the fact that he has been traded more than once during his minor league career raises some questions. The prospect they won't rush is shortstop Jonathan Villar, acquired in the Oswalt deal. Scouts believe Villar has Gold Glove defensive skills and leadoff type speed, but he is two to three years away--unless the Astros' conservatism is truly no longer as deep as that of one of their top fans---George H. W. Bush.   

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