Commentary

Dodgers feel good, though not great

Podsednik, Lilly, Theriot weren't at the top of its list, but L.A. still could have a run

Updated: July 31, 2010, 8:15 PM ET
By Tony Jackson | ESPNLosAngeles.com

SAN FRANCISCO -- When the dust had settled, the smoke had cleared and every other cliché associated with baseball's annual trading deadline had completely subsided Saturday, the Dodgers had addressed all three of their stated needs. To what degree they addressed them won't be known for a few weeks.

At any rate, the Dodgers ended up with, in chronological order:

• An outfielder in Scott Podsednik, who had been fairly far down their wish list of possible position-player acquisitions as late as the day before the Dodgers acquired him from the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday.

• A starting pitcher in Ted Lilly, who, when this annual midsummer frenzy of trade talks began, also was nowhere near the top of their list.

• An infielder in Ryan Theriot, who has more second-base experience and more speed than Blake DeWitt, the guy the Dodgers sent to the Chicago Cubs to get Lilly and Theriot, and the guy Theriot will be replacing in the everyday lineup.

• An experienced reliever in Octavio Dotel, who is a proven closer and who can be plugged in ahead of setup man Hong-Chih Kuo and Jonathan Broxton, giving the Dodgers enough late-inning depth in their bullpen to possibly shorten a game if they can grab a lead by the sixth or seventh inning.

For all that, the Dodgers added about $3 million in payroll. That amount would have been higher if the Cubs hadn't kicked in $2.5 million of the $4.3 million left on Lilly's contract, which runs through the end of the season, and the Pirates hadn't contributed $500,000 to cover almost all of Dotel's guaranteed money. In Theriot, the Dodgers also picked up a guy who won't be eligible for free agency until after the 2012 season, meaning he could be manning second base on an everyday basis for them for the foreseeable future.

It is worth noting what the Dodgers gave up to make those moves, especially given that Podsednik, Lilly and Dotel all could be two-month rentals.

In addition to DeWitt and middling middle reliever James McDonald, the Dodgers gave up valued pitching prospects Kyle Smit and Brett Wallach. They also gave up a player who was once one of their most treasured prospects in outfielder Andrew Lambo, who had fallen out of favor when he was suspended for 50 games earlier this season for testing positive for a drug of abuse.

All of which leads to this question: Just what do the Dodgers have left in a farm system that was steeped in long-range prospects but already woefully short of players who are knocking on the door of the major leagues?

Given that Smit, Wallach and Lambo all fit, more or less, into the former category, it might be much of a negative impact.

"We managed to maintain a lot of our high-end pitchers and a lot of our high-end position players," Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said.

As for Lambo, Colletti said the drug suspension, which multiple sources said was for a positive test for marijuana use, was a factor in the club's willingness to send him to the Pirates in the Dotel deal.

"It made it a little bit easier to move him," Colletti said. "We still think he is going to be a very good big league hitter, but we needed to get our bullpen to a better place than it is. This is the hitter they wanted, so we decided to make that move."

Lilly, Theriot and Dotel all are expected to arrive in time for Sunday night's game with the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. Dodgers manager Joe Torre said he wasn't sure when Lilly would make his Dodgers debut -- he last pitched for the Cubs on Tuesday -- but hinted it might come Tuesday night against the San Diego Padres.

Torre said Theriot would be in the lineup against the Giants on Sunday.

With the Dodgers having added speedsters Podsednik and Theriot, who entered Saturday having stolen a combined 47 bases this season, it could change the look of a Dodgers offense that has struggled mightily since the All-Star break. Previously, the only real stolen-base threats in the lineup were shortstop Rafael Furcal and center fielder Matt Kemp, and Kemp began the day a less-than-stellar 15-for-27 in steal attempts.

"It's something I think we needed," Colletti said. "We have two guys who run pretty good in Matt and Raffy, but we believed we needed to add as much of that as we could, somebody who is athletic and can steal bases."

With Podsednik having already been inserted into the leadoff spot, pushing Furcal to second in the order, Torre said Theriot probably would hit in the bottom third. When asked, Torre wouldn't completely close the door on moving his pitchers to eighth in the order and batting Theriot ninth -- something Torre occasionally did with fleet former Dodgers outfielder Juan Pierre in 2008 -- potentially giving him three players with speed batting ahead of the power bats in the middle of the lineup.

"He is the type of player you would hit ninth, only because it gives you a second leadoff guy," Torre said. "That isn't my plan, but he is the type of player you would consider hitting ninth just like we did with Juan Pierre."

It isn't immediately clear where Dotel, who had been closing for the Pirates and had recorded 21 saves this season, will fit into a Dodgers bullpen that already has an All-Star closer in Broxton and an All-Star setup man in Kuo, but it is clear Dotel will fit in somewhere on the back end.

"We'll see," Colletti said. "He isn't going to take Broxton's spot. He'll fit in somewhere between the sixth and eighth innings, most likely."

Colletti said he will continue to pursue additional deals in advance of baseball's secondary trading deadline. In the next couple of weeks, almost every player in the major leagues will be placed on waivers just to see who clears and who doesn't, and those who do clear can still be traded through Aug. 31.

The division-leading Padres, one of two teams the Dodgers are chasing in the National League West, dramatically upgraded their lineup with the additions of former All-Stars Miguel Tejada and Ryan Ludwick. The other, the second-place Giants, made a couple of less sexy moves Saturday, adding relievers Javier Lopez from Pittsburgh and Ramon Ramirez from Boston.

Colletti said he was unconcerned by those moves.

"Everybody who is in a race made moves," he said. "There is nothing you can do about what somebody else does."

That said, the Dodgers came away feeling good, if not great, about the moves they were able to make. They didn't get Cliff Lee, they didn't get Roy Oswalt and they didn't get Dan Haren. But they no longer have a rookie in their starting rotation -- Carlos Monasterios will go back to the bullpen to make room for Lilly -- and they no longer have a converted third baseman at second, even though DeWitt was a popular player both Colletti and Torre hated to see go.

If Manny Ramirez can come back from the disabled list in a couple of weeks and the rest of the lineup can come out of its recent, collective malaise, there might still be time for these Dodgers to make a strong run at a third consecutive playoff berth.

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Tony Jackson

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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