The Dodgers have already made a big splash in the week leading up to next Tuesday's non-waiver trade deadline, acquiring Hanley Ramirez from the Marlins. The figure to add another starting pitcher at some point in the next five days, and have been linked to Ryan Dempster or perhaps Matt Garza, both from the Cubs.
I had a chance on Wednesday to speak with Brian Kenny of MLB Network, one of the most open minded and rational baseball broadcasters in the business. You may have seen Kenny hosting Clubhouse Confidential on MLB Network, or perhaps during his years at ESPN. He offered his thoughts on Ramirez, Dempster, and the state of the Dodgers.
Kenny thought the Dodgers did well to add the 28-year old Ramirez, the three-time All-Star with a little more than $37 million left on his contract through 2014.
"For four years he played shortstop and slugged .532. He's also in his age 28 season. There are only two guys in the game, I believe, who can do that: Troy Tulowitzki and him. This is a blockbuster. They bought a superstar player. I know he's been subpar in the last two years but he's age 28, and he's shown the ability," Kenny said. "That's a remarkable player and there's really nobody like him out there. That's a tremendous deal for the Dodgers."
The Dodgers were able to get Ramirez because his stock had fallen, after he followed up four years of hitting .319/.394/.532 from 2007-2010 to hitting .245/.328/.405 since the beginning of 2011. Factor in that the Marlins had lost six out of seven through Tuesday and 30 out of their last 46 games to fall out of playoff contention, and Ramirez was made available. Marlins president Larry Beinfest was quite frank in a post-trade interview as shown Wednesday morning on MLB Network.
"We could not figure out why Hanley with his talent in his prime was hitting in the mid .240s. Hopefully he will do what he’s capable of, which is obviously not a .245 hitter, and hopefully that happens for him in LA."
Kenny thinks Ramirez was simply too talented to pass up.
"His stock is low, you can get him in this type of a deal. There are all sorts of questions about attitude and that sort of a thing, but make it your business to maximize his performance. Make him comfortable, make him happy, to make him want to perform at a high level," Kenny said. "When a guy demonstrates that he's at the top of the talent pyramid, you need to do everything you can to get that player, and then maximize his performance."
But Ramirez likely won't be the last move made by the Dodgers before Tuesday at 1 p.m. PDT. General manager Ned Colletti said on Wednesday that the Dodgers are still in the market for another position player, and another starting pitcher.
I asked Kenny if the acquisition of Ramirez would make it any more likely for the Dodgers to trade for a starting pitcher.
"When you make the move for Hanley and you lose one of your starters, and you're saying you're in it to win it this year, you're incumbent to make another deal," Kenny said. "That said, it wouldn't be the end of the world if they didn't."
That pitcher figures to be Dempster, who reportedly prefers a trade to the Dodgers, and as a player with over 10 years of experience and five with the same club he has the right to approve any trade. David Kaplan of CSN Chicago reported Thursday that the Cubs and Dodgers were closer to a deal, while Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that the Dodgers rejected a one-for-one Dempster for Allen Webster trade and that the Dodgers might prefer Garza.
Dempster at age 35 is in many ways having a career year, with a 2.25 ERA that ranks second in the major leagues to Johnny Cueto. At the same time, Dempster has struck out 19.9% of the batters he has faced this season, his worst mark since moving from the bullpen back into the rotation in 2008. Dempster's Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) is 3.40, which is more in line with his performance from 2008-2011.
Kenny noted that Dempster's batting average on balls in play is .242 this season, compared to his career mark of .301, suggesting that the right-hander has been a bit lucky this season. But Kenny also thought Dempster would be a good addition to the Dodgers if the cost was right, and with the proper perspective.
"You can't have enough pitching, so it depends on the price. If you get him at a low price you can get a decent deal," Kenny said. "If you're buying Ryan Dempster don't be thinking you're buying a 2.25 ERA. You're not. You're getting a three and a half ERA for a guy in his age 35 season. Be aware of what you're actually buying."
But the hurler that the Dodgers acquire won't be with the team in time for their series against the Giants in San Francisco this weekend. Stephen Fife is likely going to start Friday's series opener against Matt Cain, with Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw rounding out the weekend against Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong, respectively.
The Dodgers trail the Giants by three games in the National League West, and Kenny thinks that even with the addition of Ramirez the Dodgers will ultimately fall short of San Francisco in the division.
"I still think the Giants are better. The first thing I look at is run differential, and there isn't much difference between the two," Kenny said. "But when you look at the starting pitching the Giants run out there game after game and you actually look at what their offense is capable of doing I think the Giants are a better team."
Brian Kenny will be a part of MLB Network’s 20 hours of trade deadline coverage between Sunday, July 29 and Tuesday, July 31.