(This is the first installment of a series that will be looking around baseball to see who has has the starting pitching the Yankees will surely be after, and how the two teams match up)
-Are the Dodgers looking to make a deal?
In terms of the NL West pennant race, they’re not. They’re in a division which is currently being led by the Arizona Diamondbacks, hot off a 9-1 stretch led be staff ace Ian Kennedy. Most observers don’t think that’s going to last. Colorado is coming off an ice cold 2-8 stretch, and defending WS champion Giants are sputtering along at 4 games over .500. The Dodgers find themselves at 4 games under, so they’re one good week away from being right in the thick of it. This is anyone’s division, and a financially healthy Dodger team would typically be looking to add in a year like this, not send up the white flag.
But of course, the NL West race isn’t the only thing going on in Tinseltown. The Dodgers are losing money like crazy, and owner Frank McCourt is going through a bitter divorce in which his very control of the team is being contested. To make matters worse, there are reports that if he can’t make his next payroll, MLB will seize the daily operations of the team. If anyone will be holding a fire sale this year, it’s the Dodgers. Even the troubled Mets and Astros franchises have received recent infusions of cash from new ownership. McCourt is looking at the abyss, the only question is whether or not Selig will allow him to sell off, and to what degree.
On that note, it’s difficult to imagine Bud not allowing ANY deals to be made. McCourt is already looking to sue baseball for not allowing him to take a loan against his TV deal, so if Bud disallows all trade activity McCourt will have a strong case that MLB is pushing him out the door. Cash strapped teams make deals every year, it’s tough to tell McCourt he can’t make any when he’s faced with the prospect of losing the franchise. Players on expiring deals should be no problem, younger players who are dealt would have to be shown to be in the long term interest of the franchise.
-Do the Dodgers match up with the Yanks?
The Dodgers do have some starting pitchers who could be made available, who are as follows:
Hiroki Kuroda: Hiroki clearly tops the list of Dodgers who could be on the block. He gets high marks for his makeup, so he should be fine switching leagues in the middle of a pennant race. He sits in the low 90s with his fastball, doesn’t miss a ton of bats but gets the job done. High strand rate so far this year, but were talking about 11 starts. Sturdy FIP and WHIP, a solid rotation option though certainly not one that will send Yankee fans running to the ticket booth.
He’s earning 12 mil for this season on a 1 year deal, 4 mil of which is a signing bonus that will be paid out over the next two years. So by mid-season, any team looking at him will be on the hook for half of this year’s 8 mil salary PLUS the 4 mil signing bonus, which is 8 mil total for a 2-3 month rental. Fangraphs had his value last year at 16.9 mil, and at 3.5 mil 1/3 of the way through the 2011 season. That signing bonus is going to drag down his trade value the longer you hold on to him, unless the cash strapped Dodgers offer to pick it up. If they don’t, he doesn’t have much residual value to make up for and the deal looks like a straight salary dump. B-level prospect just to make it look good for Bud.
Ted Lilly: Just signed a 3 year/33 mil extension this past off season, so he’s anything but a rental. He’s pitching to a 4.41 ERA (4.43 FIP) in the NL West, so we can only imagine what he’d do in the AL East at this point of his career. I’ve never loved Lilly as a pitcher to begin with, and even if his numbers were good I’d doubt his 86.4 MPH fastball would translate in the toughest division in baseball. Having him for his ages 35-38 seasons looks to me like taking 33 mil and setting it on fire. No thanks.
Chad Billingsley: If the Dodgers want to go into a serious rebuilding mode and not just hold a fire sale, Chad’s the guy who will get them the best package in return. He recently signed long term at reasonable money (11:$6.75M 12:$9M, 13:$11M, 14:$12M, 15:$14M club option w/$3M buyout) so the team that would trade for him would be plugging him in as their #1 or #2 starter for the foreseeable future. When healthy he’s been a 4 1/2 WAR pitcher the past 3 seasons, and at 1.5 WAR one third of the way through the 2011 season he’s on pace for another good year. At just age 27 this July, the best may be yet to come. There’s a truckload of residual value to make up for on a player of his talent signed under market for the next 5 seasons, so this one would be very, very expensive. Like 3 of your top 5 prospects, plus. There’s also not a ton of salary relief here this year for McCourt, so the Dodgers don’t have a huge incentive to deal him.
-Do the Yanks match up with the Dodgers?
Maybe. According to BA, the Dodgers top 10 prospects features 8 pitchers, with 4 of the top 5 being righties. Their #1 prospect is SS Dee Gordon (26th overall on BAs top 100) and their next best position player is 1B/OF Jerry Sands, who was ranked 6th in their system and didn’t make BA’s top 100. Their #2 prospect is RHP Zach Lee and #3 is Rubby de la Rosa, who came in on BA’s top 100 at #89 and 90, respectively. So the Dodgers’ system is heavy on arms, short on position players, and fairly weak overall. If they view Montero as a Catcher, he could be a good fit. But if they view him as a 1B, he’s blocked by Loney at the MLB level and they’re forced to make Sands an OF or deal him. But Montero’s a far better prospect than Sands, so that’s small potatoes. Loney’s the bigger obstacle, unless they plan on dealing him as well. A team with a farm system that’s heavy on position players would be a far better fit for the Dodgers.
Kuroda can be had for a song, but Billingley’s a pipe dream.
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