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Lee is litmus test for Dodgers owners

How do the win-now Dodgers pass on a chance to land the former Cy Young award winner?

August 03, 2012|T.J. Simers
  • Cliff Lee is 2-6 in 18 starts this season with an earned run average of 3.73.
Cliff Lee is 2-6 in 18 starts this season with an earned run average of 3.73. (Sarah Glenn / Getty Images )

I don't want to bully the Dodgers into making a mistake; they've proved to be more than capable of doing so on their own.

But Cliff Lee?

He's available, and the Dodgers want to win NOW!

Isn't this like Penn State running back Silas Redd suddenly becoming available to fill a need, thereby enhancing USC's chances of winning a college football championship?

How do the win-now Dodgers pass on a chance to land Lee, given the state of the standings and their starting rotation?

Forget Lee's record this season; if you saw him pitch against the Dodgers, on both occasions he looked every bit one of the league's premier pitchers.

He pitched 152/3 innings, gave up three runs and eight hits and went 0-1. It's been that kind of year for him and the Philadelphia Phillies, who have already called it a season.

He threw seven scoreless innings against the first-place Washington Nationals a few days ago.

Just say the names of the Dodgers' starting pitchers out loud, and then talk about the team's chances of making the playoffs. Now include Lee's name.

No matter how the Dodgers get there, if they do, how much different might they be in the playoffs with Lee pitching for them?

If Lee clears waivers, that will mean the Dodgers did not put in a claim, and that will be an indication ownership really does have financial limitations despite saying there are none.

Now, to be honest, as traditional baseball business goes, you'd have to be crazy to claim Lee, given all the money he's still owed. No one in baseball really expects him to be claimed.

But then no one believed the Dodgers would go for more than $2 billion, so we really don't know the level of Guggenheim craziness quite yet.

Guggenheim honcho Mark Walter, very much the cheerleader during batting practice and jumping to his feet from the owner's box during games, has said the Dodgers are under no financial restrictions when it comes to improving.

Cliff Lee or some guy named Fife pitching for the Dodgers? It just sounds like an improvement.

It's not my money, so I would urge them to spend it.

Lee is owed $7 million for the rest of this season and Kobe-like money over the next three years.

Lee will get $27.5 million in 2016 at age 38, which sounds like a Vernon Wells trap, but only if Lee pitches a certain number of innings leading up to 2016.

If he does that, the Dodgers will most likely have already benefited from his expertise. If he does not, we'll rip them for signing the guy and they will be allowed to buy him out for something like $12 million.

More than anything, this is a test for ownership.

How much is it worth to the owners to win now, jack up the fans and set themselves up to do whatever they might have planned for the stadium and future development?

Until the team wins, they are in for a struggle.

What better way to introduce yourself to L.A. than making all these midseason moves resulting in a World Series title for the first time since 1988?

If the Dodgers claim Lee, as shocking as it would be to everyone else in baseball, they wouldn't have to surrender any pitching prospects.

If the Phillies pull Lee off waivers and try to make a trade with the Dodgers, they will probably have to pay some of his contract in exchange for prospects.

The Dodgers wouldn't surrender those prospects for Ryan Dempster, but Dempster was a two-month rental. Lee will have the chance to buy a house here.

Whatever happens in this process, we're going to learn something about Guggenheim ownership and all the giddy talk about the willingness to do whatever it takes to win now.

What a great chance to prove it.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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