It’s been true for some time that the Dodgers are in the market for a starting pitcher, a left-handed reliever, and a corner infielder. Scratch Carlos Lee’s name off the list of available players, though general manager Ned Colletti doesn’t necessarily believe that Lee’s trade to the Miami Marlins last week is a sure sign the market is heating up.
“For the sellers, there’s never a sense of urgency until you get to the 31st,” Colletti said, referring to the August 31 trade deadline. “The seller’s risk is injury. They can wait it out right until the bell.”
Injuries? The Dodgers have plenty of those.
Colletti’s search for a corner infielder may have broadened to include someone who can play both third base (or first base) and shortstop. Dee Gordon‘s thumb injury and subsequent surgery will sideline the Dodgers’ starting shortstop and leadoff hitter for six weeks.
“It makes us keep our eye open on that position,” Colletti said. “Before the injury, we weren’t looking at that position.”
General managers can’t comment specifically on opposing players, but Jed Lowrie is a name that’s surfaced in various reports this season. He’s played exclusively at shortstop this season for the Houston Astros but played 83 games at third from 2008-11 with the Boston Red Sox.
Then there’s 28-year-old Luis Cruz, who is batting .318 since making his Dodger debut on July 2. He has four RBI and four doubles among his seven hits. In a seller’s market, Cruz is giving his GM every incentive to wait before making a deal for a shortstop.
“He’s played very well,” Colletti said. “He had a great winter league. Came into camp and had a good spring. At Triple-A he maintained it. Scouts always talked about how steady he is. He’ll play good defense. He knows how to play.”
There’s a bigger reason for Colletti to be patient, of course, and that is the impending returns of Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier from the disabled list. Both are expected back when the second half begins Friday (a 7 p.m. home game against the San Diego Padres). What will the Dodger lineup look like with the heart of the order intact?
The last time it was intact was May 30. On that day, the Dodgers held a 32-18 record, best in Major League Baseball and 5.5 games better than second-place San Francisco in the National League West. It would be easy for Colletti to say that this is a true indication of the Dodgers’ talent — after all, what’s the measure of a team if not its number of wins?
“But that was a period of time that’s passed,” Colletti said. “You don’t know who’s going to get hurt, what other teams are going to do, what players on other teams are going to be healthy. You can’t put x number of people on the field and say, this is going to happen.”
While that’s true, it’s not the strongest endorsement of faith in the Dodgers’ potential to take the National League by storm in the second half. Like the injuries, like the near-trade for Lee, like the switch to a more free-spending ownership group, it sets the stage for a particularly active trading season for the Dodgers.