Previewing trade season in the NL
The Dodgers' owner has earned the focus and the scrutiny of his sport, and meanwhile, that entity once known as Dodger baseball is drifting along unnoticed, in a twisting river of events which are taking it out of reach of success.
It would make sense for the Dodgers to invest in their best young players -- Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Clayton Kershaw -- but they cannot, so long as a bankruptcy judge is musing over the players' status as creditors.
The San Francisco Giants are poised to build around a future of Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey, and the Rockies have invested more than $200 million in Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. The Diamondbacks have a long-term deal in place with Justin Upton that runs through 2015, and Chris Young is under contract through 2013, with an option for 2014.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers baseball team is basically inert. While the list of retired players lined up to receive Frank McCourt's money is impressive, here's the list of the players signed into 2012 and beyond:
1. Ted Lilly, who will make $10.5 million in 2012 and $12 million in 2013.
2. Chad Billingsley, in line to make salaries of $9 million, $11 million and $12 million over the next three seasons, with a club option for 2015.
3. Juan Uribe, signed through 2013, for $15 million over the next two seasons.
4. Matt Guerrier, who will make $7.5 million over the next two seasons.
Ethier and Kemp? They'll be eligible for free agency in about 16 months, and at the moment, the folks who work for Frank McCourt -- or Major League Baseball, we're not quite sure which -- are not in a position to make the eight-figure offers required to keep the two young stars.
And let's just say that from a player's perspective, the Dodgers might not be the most attractive team to play for, with the greatest chance of winning. The longer the franchise is dragged through courts, the less the baseball operations people can do to make the team better. For all we know, Ethier and Kemp may already be dreaming about playing for clubs capable of making payroll every two weeks. If they were already prepared to jump, you couldn't blame them.
The Dodgers are in a holding pattern. Sources say that with the trade deadline now 31 days away, the front office is starting the process of gathering information and exchanging phone calls about some of their more tradable commodities. To date, no teams have called on veteran infielder Jamey Carroll, although that figures to change, given the needs elsewhere. Hiroki Kuroda has a partial no-trade clause, and in any event, the Dodgers are not teeming with pitching at Triple-A, and so Kuroda is needed for the team to compete as best it can over the next three months. Casey Blake is hitting .244 with four homers, and while he's a respected veteran, the Dodgers would get so little in return for him -- if anything -- that it almost isn't worthwhile to deal him. James Loney is becoming a strong candidate for a winter non-tender, given that his $4.875 million salary is bound to grow through arbitration and he currently has a .350 slugging percentage -- two numbers that don't add up to a lot of trade value.
No, the Dodgers will wait, which seems to be the theme of the moment in the trade market. Seventeen of the 30 teams are within four games of first place Thursday morning, and very few teams have indicated they are open for business. Talks are taking place and eventually, trades will be made, but it may take a while.
Here's what's happening with the rest of the NL teams, as the days to the trade deadline come off the calendar.
Mets: No team has called them about Jose Reyes, and assuming that some interest does develop, the Mets would require at least a Grade-A prospect and a solid Grade-B prospect -- a steep price for a player who has already indicated an intention to test the free-agent market this fall. The Mets will listen on Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez, but keep in mind that moving either would require enormous financial concessions by the Mets; they'd have to kick in millions to complete trades of the pricey veterans.
And here's something else to note: The Mets are four games out in the loss column in the wild-card race and playing well.
In a perfect world, writes Mike Vaccaro, the Mets would give Reyes a truckload of cash.
To read Buster's take on the trade season moves of the rest of the NL teams, you must be an ESPN Insider.