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BILL SHAIKIN / ON BASEBALL

Dodgers can't let Roy Halladay get away

Some believe the right-hander, whom Toronto is willing to trade, would make the Dodgers a World Series winner.

July 12, 2009|BILL SHAIKIN

Mannywood is nice. Bleacher Beach is cool.

The World Series is better.

That's why we're here. Now is the time. If Frank McCourt really wants to do all he can to deliver a championship to the fans of Los Angeles, and to parlay the best record in baseball into the best chance to win in October, he ought to send Ned Colletti shopping and tell him not to come back without Roy Halladay.

Two decades is too long for Dodger Stadium to sit idle during the World Series, too long for the Dodgers to milk the glory of Kirk Gibson. Halladay is the grand prize of the July trading season, arguably the best pitcher in baseball.

"He would make the Dodgers a World Series winner," a high-ranking American League executive said. The executive could not be identified because his team forbids him from publicly commenting on other teams.

The Dodgers would have to pay dearly to get Halladay, as any team should. This is not about quantity, about trading half a dozen scrubs and suspects. This is about quality, about enticing the Toronto Blue Jays to surrender perhaps the best pitcher in franchise history.

The Dodgers ought to start by offering two-time All-Star catcher Russell Martin, a Canadian star for Canada's team.

The Dodgers have made no secret of their interest in Halladay. They had two scouts watching him Thursday, and they had started talking to the Jays even before Toronto General Manager J.P. Ricciardi said publicly last week that he would solicit offers for the six-time All-Star.

Colletti, the Dodgers' general manager, has said since opening day that he hoped to acquire pitching. He said Friday he wants a veteran for the eighth inning and a starter who "can make our rotation definitively better."

In Halladay, you get both, at least on the days he pitches. Halladay has thrown three complete games this season, to the Dodgers' one. He has thrown more complete games than the Dodgers in each of the last three years.

He ranks fourth in the American League with a 2.85 earned-run average. In 12 seasons in Toronto, none of them ending in a playoff appearance, he is 141-69.

Colletti declined to comment on Halladay or any other player, citing baseball's tampering rules.

"I've talked to a lot of clubs, including Toronto," Colletti said.

For the Dodgers, this is about winning now, so they can't lose three players from their major league roster to get one.

This is tricky, because their best young players are already in L.A. -- seven players 25 and under on the current roster, including center fielder Matt Kemp, closer Jonathan Broxton and starters Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw.

Martin is 26. The Dodgers ran him into the ground in each of the last two years and promised not to do it again this year, but he has caught more innings than any major league catcher besides Yadier Molina.

The Blue Jays would have control of Martin for three years beyond this one. They could maximize his offensive skills in that time by using him at third base, where he performed brilliantly for the Dodgers last year. They also could use him at catcher, at designated hitter, and on occasion at shortstop.

It's catcher or bust for Martin with the Dodgers, with no DH and third baseman Casey Blake signed through 2011.

The Dodgers' lineup would be weakened a tad without Martin, but they could survive with Brad Ausmus, A.J. Ellis and Danny Ardoin. If the coaching staff objects, they could get the Jays to throw in catcher Rod Barajas.

The Jays aren't going to trade Halladay for Martin straight up, of course.

The Dodgers also should offer two of their top 2008 draft picks -- shortstop Devaris Gordon, a high-ceiling shortstop prospect two or three years from the majors, and right-hander Josh Lindblom, the former Purdue closer who almost made the team out of spring training. Lindblom could go into the Jays' bullpen right now, perhaps into their rotation next year.

Keep in mind that neither Gordon nor Lindblom is ranked among the top 50 prospects in the minor leagues, as ranked last week by Baseball America. None of the Dodgers' prospects is ranked, in fact, and certainly the Dodgers will be bidding for Halladay against teams offering prospects near the top of that list.

This is not to say the Jays would accept Martin, Gordon and Lindblom for Halladay, or even that the Dodgers would offer that package. The coaching staff would be reluctant to lose Martin at this point of the season, and the organization has all but deemed Gordon untouchable.

But this is the time. This group of Dodgers position players will run out of time soon. Martin, Kemp, Andre Ethier and James Loney all are eligible for salary arbitration next season, when Manny Ramirez figures to play his final season in L.A. Orlando Hudson is not signed beyond this season. Blake turns 36 in August. Shortstop Rafael Furcal turns 32 in October.

The Dodgers might never be closer to winning it all with this group than they are right now. They are an ace away, and there is an ace to be had.

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