Friday, July 30, 2010

What does the Lilly talk mean?

I'll start by saying this: I wouldn't be opposed to dropping out of the race and selling. Packing it in for 2010. Punting on Broxton, Martin, Loney, Padilla, whatever. Maybe someone will want Manny in August; he'd surely pass through waivers. The Dodgers are seven games back in the West, and the longer things go on, the less it matters that the Padres really aren't this good. Yes, they're just three-and-a-half games out of the Wild Card lead, but that's sort of illusory--there there are three non-division-leading teams between the Dodgers and that last playoff spot.

Baseball Reference hosts this cool figure conjured up by John Dewan called Summed Games Back, which sort of takes into account both teams' records and how hard it will be to pass them along the way to the top. By that calculation, the Dodgers are effectively 7.5 games out of the Wild Card and 10.5 back in the West. Could the club go on a run? Of course. But, with the farm system ravaged by the trades and non-investment of recent years, I wouldn't be opposed to kick-starting the system by selling off desirable, soon-to-be-expensive big league pieces.

But I don't think the club has quite reached that conclusion. Over the last couple weeks, there have been several articles (like this one and this one) focusing on the same general theme: despite the ownership turmoil and everything else, the Dodgers intend to buy at the deadline. And buy they have, a little bit: they traded a couple minor league pieces for the useful Scott Podsednik. Today, the discussion is centered on adding Ted Lilly, a 34-year old from Lomita whose #1 and #2 career comparables are Randy Wolf and Brad Penny. Lilly, owed several million dollars over the remainder of the season, would shore up the back half of the rotation, slotting in alongside Hiroki Kuroda behind Kershaw and Billingsley.

And maybe the Dodgers make the move. Maybe they toss the Cubs a couple of the few remaining good prospects so that Chicago will cover Lilly's salary. Maybe they take on the money themselves. However it is accomplished, maybe the Dodgers add Lilly, hope for a little bit of luck, and make a September push. It would be a shame, after all, to sacrifice a year of the core's youth in a lost season.

Or maybe it's all just blustering. Over the winter, the Dodgers made it loudly known that they were in on Joel Pineiro. Of course, it's not clear that the sides even exchanged numbers, but see? The Dodgers were in on Joel Pineiro! No money problems here! Then in June, the Dodgers took a highly-regarded Texas high school right-hander named Zach Lee in the draft. See? The Dodgers drafted a premium talent! Only problem: Lee is also premiumly talented at football, and was considered the toughest first rounder to sign even before the penny-pinching Dodgers picked him.

And here we are in late July, with the Dodgers again making loud pursuit of pitching. We're buyers! We're in on Lilly! Like I said, maybe it happens, though I'm sure I'm not alone in praying this doesn't go the same way as Blake/Santana and Sherrill/Bell. The tough part here is that it's still perfectly clear the Dodgers don't understand the time value of player acquisitions; Ted Lilly is not bad, but giving up anything of value for ten of his starts is unwise unless the margin between making and missing the playoffs is a game or two. It's not.

Resources spent on the draft and in amateur free agency go farther than resources spent on major league free agents. And resources spent on major league free agents go farther than resources spent at the deadline, because there are only two months left and the cost is often more than just money. I'm against a Lilly deal on the not-unreasonable assumption that the Dodgers might surrender a prospect or two just to put the We're Trying! veneer on a decaying season.

I hope I'm wrong about everything in that last sentence. I hope a Lilly acquisition would come from the naive-but-well-intentioned place of "we're still in it." I hope we don't surrender a prospect or two. And I certainly hope the season isn't decaying; Billingsley, Kershaw, Kuroda, and a healthy outfield would make the Dodgers a tough out in October. But, for all that short-term hope, I still have the long-term hope that, at some point, the Dodgers will start thinking about the big picture. And that big picture shows a pipeline that has hemorrhaged talent over the last several seasons chasing races more easily salvageable than this one.


  1. More legalese and less baseball please!

  2. More baseball and less legalese please!

  3. you can bet there is a story here:

    "The 52nd Annual Hollywood Stars Game was scheduled to take place prior to the game however, the event has been postponed and will now take place on Saturday, October 2nd, before the Dodgers matchup with the D-backs. The August 7th game is still scheduled to start at 7:10 p.m. PT. We apologize for any inconvenience".

  4. I have concluded that the Dodgers' series of futile moves by the deadline were not even an attempt to keep fannies in the seats for the rest of the year. I believe it was all about saving money for this year AND beyond.

    Think about it--might not a package of McDonald, Lambo, Wallach, and Smit (or Pimentel) been enough to net Dan Haren? Since Arizona might've wanted more from a division rival (safe to assume), then add another "B" prospect. Look at what they got from Anaheim. There is more upside to that Dodgers' package than what the Angels gave.

    I think it's because they did not want to acquire ANY salary for this year or next. Haren is signed through 2012, with an option for 2013. How great would a top three of Haren, Kershaw, and Biilingsley have looked for the next few years? I would put those three up against Lincecum/Cain/Zito any day.

    I would bet a lot of money that Lilly will not be offered arbitration, and I am sure others would, too. No, can't risk him accepting the offer, just like with Wolf, although Lilly could be reasonably expected to get two or more years elsewhere.

    And the Dodgers certainly wouldn't shell out for extra draft picks next year, although it's clear the 2011 draft will be a stocked one.

    If it were about putting fannies in seats, Haren would've accomplished that. Ted Lilly does not, and I think that helps prove my suspicion.

    McCourt is gearing up to slash payroll even further, thinking he will be able to keep the team, or in the event he has to sell (which I pray for every night), he will have a lower payroll for a potential buyer to ogle. Why should he invest ANY more money in this team? He has been a crook from Day One.

  5. Another reason why I think these particular deadline deals were about money, not about looking (or being) competitive.....

    Colletti admitted that he was intrigued by last-minute offers for Manny. He did NOT tell the media that he had no intention of dealing Manny, that Manny was a big part of the team, this team was still in it, etc. It sounded like something might have gotten accomplished if teams had approached Colletti earlier--Colletti mentioned the "difficulty surrounding his contract and Manny approving a deal." He said there wasn't much time.

    That doesn't sound like a GM whose primary interest is selling a competitive team to the public. Sounds like someone wanting to dump money (and perhaps eager to get rid of a guy who's worn out his welcome).

  6. Amazing post! Thanks a lot for sharing.