COMMENTARY | As the trade deadline inches ever closer, the Los Angeles Dodgers stand in a position few teams do. They have the ability to take on any amount of money to facilitate a trade and have shown a complete willingness to do so, dating back to last year when they acquired half of the Boston Red Sox and a quarter of a BILLION dollars.
Their current 25-man roster has gotten almost entirely healthy and gone on a fantastic run in winning nine out of 10 to move from the bottom of the NL West to a virtual tie for third place. After being 9.5 games back a couple of weeks ago, they now sit just 2.5 behind the division-leading Arizona Diamondbacks.
While a major move isn't an absolute necessity, there are tweaks that could certainly be made to improve the team, and a couple of major names that if available for the right price could swing the pendulum of NL West control entirely into Chavez Ravine.
The recent dumping of Matt Guerrier and Peter Moylan for superior talents in Chris Withrow and Jose Dominguez was a great start. The potential addition of Carlos Marmol, should he actually pitch for the Dodgers -- which I fully expect to occur at some point -- well, not so much.
That being said, you can never have enough arms in the pen -- especially arms with great stuff and swing and miss ability -- and Ned Colletti has shown a penchant for acquiring relievers with "closing mentality" and experience. It wouldn't shock me at all to see him overpay for somebody with a bunch of pretty saves on his resume.
If an arm with swing-and-miss stuff can be had in the next few weeks for marginal prospects, I'm all for it. Is acquiring a former or current closer while overpaying to do so (i.e. a Tom Wilhelmsen type) necessary? No.
Rumors of Chase Utley have been in the air recently, and it's certainly the best the Dodgers could hope for and realistically achieve. Mark Ellis is injury-prone at second and while Utley has also dealt with injuries the last few years, he's exponentially better than Ellis on both sides of the ball, and that's especially true with the lumber.
Ellis has been abominably bad with the bat in 2013, hitting just .258/.303/.342/.645 with an unholy .285 wOBA. He has also been below par with the glove and on the bases. Utley, who's about a year and a half younger, has been very good in all facets of the game this season.
Though he's not the same player he was before injuries and age took a toll, he's hitting .279/.346/.510/.856 with a .368 wOBA, an excellent slash line for a second baseman. He's been fantastic with the glove yet again and above average on the basepaths.
While the Phillies and Dodgers have the same winning percentage and an almost identical record, Philly sits 9.5 games back of the Atlanta Braves, in addition to Utley being in the final year of his deal. A transaction centered around Chris Reed, Garrett Gould, and a couple other mid-level prospects is one I'd make in a heartbeat if I were the Dodgers, and I'd also have to strongly consider dealing Joc Pederson.
The bench has improved with Tim Federowicz now the backup catcher and Scott Van Slyke at least temporarily entrenched as a backup outfielder, as I recently wrote about, but it could still get much better.
If the Dodgers can swing a small deal for a backup middle infielder or backup third baseman better than Skip Schumaker, Nick Punto and Jerry Hairston, it would greatly improve the depth on the club. It's not always how big or flashy of a trade you make, but how impactful it is based on the needs of your club.
Though the Dodgers have played much, much better as of late, they could stand to improve in a few areas as the trade deadline approaches. I would personally not be in the market to part with upper-echelon prospects unless I was getting a stud in his prime back. Instead, I would focus on picking up a power arm for the pen, an improvement at second, and/or a bench piece or two.
Swinging a deal for a Chase Utley or even a Cliff Lee would require letting better prospects go, which has rarely worked out in Ned Colletti's favor. If it was doable with mid-level prospects, I'd be game, but this Dodgers team, though still flawed, can certainly continue to make a run without any major moves taking place.
Greg Zakwin is the founder of Plaschke, Thy Sweater Is Argyle, a Dodgers' and sports card blog. He writes with an analytical tilt about The Blue Crew at ChadMoriyama.com. You can find and follow him on Twitter @ArgyledPlaschke. A graduate of UCLA in 2011 with a Bachelor's in History, he's been a follower of the Dodgers since birth and still mourns the loss of both Mike Piazza and Carlos Santana.
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