The Los Angeles Dodgers were the most active team during this year's trading season, adding eight new players to their 25-man roster from July 25 to Aug. 25, and that doesn't include injured outfielder Carl Crawford, who is due $102.5 million over the next five seasons.
However, despite the new additions, and adding more than $25 million in additional payroll for this season alone, the new-look Dodgers find their playoff hopes fading.
The blockbuster trade with the Boston Red Sox, a nine-player deal that stunned the baseball world, seemingly elevated the Dodgers to a level above their competition in the National League West. Adrian Gonzalez, who came to the Dodgers along with starting pitcher Josh Beckett, Crawford and utility man Nick Punto, had a great debut at Dodger Stadium, hitting a three-run home run in his first at-bat.
After that Aug. 25 win over the Miami Marlins, the Dodgers were just two games behind the San Francisco Giants in the division. But since that day, the Dodgers have lost nine of 14 games and were 5 1/2 games out in the National League West after the weekend.
There are myriad reasons why the Dodgers aren't winning, and chief among them is the middle of the lineup hasn't produced. Gonzalez has played 15 games with the Dodgers and still has just that one home run, hitting .242 in the process. Matt Kemp has just three hits in his last 30 at-bats.
In losing two of three games to the Giants over the weekend in San Francisco, the Dodgers had just one hit in 23 at-bats with runners in scoring position. Los Angeles has scored just 25 runs in its last 10 games, producing three runs or fewer in eight of those contests.
"I'm a little bit, I don't want to say shocked. I just want to see more good at-bats," manager Don Mattingly said. "I know they're trying. I never have any problem with the effort. I know they want to get hits and all that. We have to get better with our approaches."
Shane Victorino has hit just .245 with a .314 on-base percentage in 35 games since joining the Dodgers on July 31, doing little to set the table for that slumping middle of the order. Mattingly even shifted Victorino out of the leadoff position and batted him second, trying to get him more comfortable, but it hasn't yet worked. In 12 games batting second, Victorino has hit just .217 with a .315 on-base percentage.
To make matters worse, injuries have hurt the team as well. Kemp has slumped since he crashed into the center field wall in Colorado, and the center fielder has missed the past two games due to left shoulder inflammation. Starting pitcher Chad Billingsley, who was 6-0 with a 1.80 ERA in seven starts after the All-Star break, is out for the season with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Even ace Clayton Kershaw wasn't immune to the injury bug, as he was scratched Sunday because of left hip inflammation.
On one hand, the moves made by the Dodgers were for the long haul. Hanley Ramirez and Beckett join Billingsley and Kershaw as players who are under team control through 2014, while Andre Ethier, Crawford, Gonzalez and Kemp are all signed through at least 2017.
But that doesn't mean the Dodgers can't still contend this year. Los Angeles was 1 1/2 games behind the Cardinals for the second wild-card spot through Sunday, and St. Louis comes to Dodger Stadium for a four-game series this week.
"These guys will hit," Mattingly said of the Dodgers. "That's not the question. It's a matter of will we do it right now?
That's the $25 million question the Dodgers have yet to answer in the affirmative.