- Mark Saxon, ESPN Staff Writer
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LOS ANGELES -- It's July and, in a matter of weeks, the Los Angeles Dodgers will have at least one and probably several new players on their roster, acquired via trade. That player or those players might arrive before the non-waiver deadline of July 31 or they might come after.
But the Dodgers will make moves. Make no mistake. It's just what a front office of general manager Ned Colletti, who's not the sit-back-and-be-patient type, does.
And if you've been paying attention to the details this season, you can probably think right along with Colletti, who said recently, "I'd like to get our bullpen squared away, whether it's internally or externally."
The Dodgers need another reliever, preferably the kind you can hand the eighth inning to and feel as if it's in good hands. The latest demonstration was Wednesday afternoon's 5-4 loss to the Cleveland Indians, in which Brian Wilson turned a one-run lead into two-run deficit while getting one out and allowing five batters to reach base.
Not to pile on Wilson, though the fans certainly were as he left the mound to fairly prominent boos in the eighth inning. Since May 14, Wilson had pitched to a 0.54 ERA, held opponents to a .540 OPS and struck out 18 batters in 16 2/3 innings before Wednesday happened.
But Wednesday did happen and the National League isn't going to let the Dodgers win their division based on what they've done since May 14. Overall, Wilson has walked 21 batters and given up three home runs in 29 1/3 innings this season. Those aren't reassuring numbers and, judging by Wednesday's actions, it's pretty obvious manager Don Mattingly doesn't have total confidence in soft-throwing lefty J.P. Howell as his primary setup man.
Mattingly let Wilson, a right-hander, face left-handed hitting pinch hitter David Murphy though Howell was warmed up in the bullpen, saying, "I feel good with Willy. Willy's been good."
He has, for a while, but he really hasn't been consistently good since October 2013. His velocity isn't what it was in 2013. According to Fangraphs, Wilson's fastball is averaging 92.6 mph, the slowest it has ever been since he arrived in the major leagues in 2006. The command issues, sporadic but real, have been even more worrisome.
Overall, the situation is fairly obvious as Colletti probes his team for areas of weakness going into the deadline. The Dodgers' offense hasn't been dynamic, but it has been fine. It ranks third in the National League in runs scored. And you might have noticed that the starters are pretty good, as in better than any rotation in the National League by nearly a quarter-of-a-run good.
So, the math isn't really that hard to scratch out. The Dodgers have the No. 12 bullpen ERA in the National League. There are only 15 teams. Does that sound like a championship-caliber bullpen to you?
Of course, specifics are always harder to dig up, but there should be some decent relievers available, particularly once the bubble teams decide they're out of the running. The Boston Red Sox's starting outfield is batting .190 collectively. Perhaps the Dodgers could even trade one of their spare outfielders once Carl Crawford returns in a deal that involves Koji Uehara. Colletti and Ben Cherington seem to have little trouble lining up marquee deals.
The Seattle Mariners also could still use an outfielder. They have the best bullpen in the American League, statistically, and they're going with Dustin Ackley (.223) in left field, so maybe the sides could each deal from their strengths?
How much good is lefty Tony Sipp, who has a 1.61 ERA, doing for the Houston Astros' rebuilding efforts? The Astros are 13 games under .500. Sipp is 30 and arbitration-eligible next winter. By adding another reliable lefty, maybe Mattingly would feel more comfortable using Howell as his eighth-inning guy regardless of the matchups.
Wednesday was an ugly game for the Dodgers all the way around and hardly indicative of their recent form. In fact, Andre Ethier got a little testy when a reporter asked him if the team was a bit "down" after two sloppy games that knocked them out of first place in the NL West.
"Three weeks ago, you guys said we were out of it," Ethier said. "We're one game out, so are we going to be down?"
Wednesday wasn't a single-cause kind of a loss, but if you take the long view, this is a single-fix kind of team right now.
2dBrian Heyman, Special to ESPN.com