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Will the Dodgers Bring Back Ted Lilly?

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As ill-advised as the trade may have been, it's quite clear that Ted Lilly has been solid is his time in Los Angeles.  Ted Lilly and Ryan Theriot were traded to the Dodgers at the deadline for Blake DeWitt, Brett Wallach and Kyle Smit.  Leaving alone the prospects included in the deal, the swap of Theriot for DeWitt going into 2011 seems like a huge downgrade.  Theriot has posted a wOBA of .290 on the season and has been less than impressive in the field in the small sample I have seen of him in Dodger blue. A sub .300 wOBA from a middle infielder happens, but generally those guys make up for their lack of ability at the plate with elite defense. DeWitt who is also a sub-par defensive second baseman, rates slightly better with the bat. On the year, DeWitt has a wOBA of .307. The big differnece between the two players is salary as DeWitt will still be pre-arbitration and should command a salary around $350,000 next season. Theriot will likely be offered arbitration by the Dodgers, and Eric estimates he will command a salary of $3.5MM next season. To sum up, the Dodgers exchanged a younger, better hitting, pre-arbitration second baseman for an older second baseman who will make ten times the salary next season. 

Bringing this back to Lilly, if the Dodgers brass were ever interested in making the July deadline deal look a little more compelling for the Dodgers, it's by re-signing Ted Lilly. While Lilly was added to a pitching staff that wasn't a problem in order to make a playoff run which never materialized, the Dodgers do retain the option to offer him arbitration.  While I don't think the Dodgers would offer Lilly arbitration in fear that he might accept and receive a 1 year $11,000,000 contract, it does give the Dodger a negotiating advantage in terms of working out a long term deal (as it would put Lilly in a tough spot in terms of either acepting arbitration or seeking a multi-year deal knowing other teams would have to surrender a draft pick to the Dodgers if a deal is reached.)  Ned Colletti has expressed his desire to keep Lilly after this season, and Lilly's number since joining the club have been impressive at 3.33/ 4.11/ 3.72.  That being said, for all of Ned's bad moves, he doesn't overreact to successes of his players in the short term.  Vicente Padilla was equally brilliant down the stretch last year yet the club waited until deep into the off-season before agreeing to terms with Padilla (1 year $5MM.)  While some may point to the Manny Ramirez contract as evidence that the club can still overpay for players, remembering the environment of that off-season and the other-wordly performance of Ramirez down the stretch, you could say the Dodgers exercised appropriate patience in letting the negotiations play out and getting the deal down to 2 years when most people expected Ramirez would get 4 (at the end of the 2008 season.)  Perhaps the best comp is fellow left handed pitcher Randy Wolf. Wolf had a brilliant year last season with the Dodgers, yet the club declined to offer him arbitration.  Once in free agency, Wolf ended up signing a 3 year $30MM contract with the Brewers, and has posted a line of 4.53 / 5.12/ 5.04.

I'll leave the discussion of whether the club can afford to pay out abitration to Lilly, sign the draft pick, or pay for the team's electric bill to the commenters.  As for my guess.  Will the Dodgers bring back Ted Lilly?  I actually think they will, and I think it will happen quickly after the season.  I assume the Dodgers will work out a 2 year deal with left-hander before the arbitration deadline.  Lilly will take the bird in the hand and the Dodgers can have plenty of time to figure out where the other 2 starting pitchers, starting catcher, and outfielder are coming from.

Notes:

  • Bad sign for this evening, the Dodgers have lost four straight rubber games (vs. Cincinnati, Colorado, Philadelphia and San Francisco.)
  • The Dodgers are 8-9 against the Giants this season, and need a win tonight in order to avoid their first losing season to San Francisco since 2005.
  • Best Dodger ever, Jay Gibbons, leads the team in September with 3 homeruns and 9 RBIs.
  • Get your votes in for Xeifrank's simulator contest

Game time: 7:15 p.m

Local TV: KCAL