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Dodgers go after Cliff Lee, then beat Cubs

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

Waiver claim for former Cy Young winner could be costly. A.J. Ellis hits two homers in 6-1 victory over Chicago.

August 03, 2012|By Dylan Hernandez
  • The Dodgers placed a waiver claim on Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee on Friday prior to their 6-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs.
The Dodgers placed a waiver claim on Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cliff… (Drew Hallowell / Getty Images )

The Dodgers made a significant statement Friday and it had nothing to do with their 6-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs at Dodger Stadium or their acquisition of starting pitcher Joe Blanton from the Philadelphia Phillies.

They won a waiver claim on Cliff Lee.

That doesn't mean the Dodgers will be able to pry the former Cy Young Award winner from the Philadelphia Phillies — in fact, indications are that they won't — but the move was the most telling sign to date of their new owners' economic muscle.

The mere act of placing a claim on Lee exposed the Dodgers to the risk of adding as much as $110 million to their ledger, as the Phillies could have forced them to take the 33-year-old left-hander and the remainder of his bloated contract. Still, there was no hesitation on the part of the Dodgers, according to a person familiar with their thinking.

"This shows what this team wants to do," outfielder Shane Victorino said. "It's about now. We don't want to wait around."

The Phillies want more than salary relief in exchange for Lee. They now have the option of holding onto Lee, which is what General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told reporters in Philadelphia they would do, or trade him to the Dodgers by Sunday.

Victorino, who was acquired from the Phillies on Tuesday, guessed it would be "tough" for the Dodgers to acquire Lee.

"He's Cliff Lee," Victorino said. "The Phillies are going to want a lot for him."

Major league players involved in a trade would have to first clear waivers, meaning the Dodgers probably won't be able to offer anyone of value from their active roster. The Dodgers are also short on premium prospects.

Lee is owed about $7 million for the remainder of this season. He is owed $25 million annually from 2013-2015 and his contract includes a $27.5 million option for 2016 that becomes guaranteed if he meets certain performance benchmarks. Lee will be 38 at the end of the 2016 season.

Even before making a play for Lee, the Dodgers added more than $40 million to their payroll in the previous 10 days by adding Victorino, Hanley Ramirez, Randy Choate and Brandon League. They took on almost $3 million more Friday when they traded for Blanton.

The Dodgers' off-the-field activity overshadowed a fine performance on the field. With A.J. Ellis hitting two home runs in a game for the first time in his career, Chad Billingsley winning his third consecutive start and Ramirez driving in a pair of runs, the Dodgers ended a three-game skid to remain half a game behind the first-place San Francisco Giants in the National League West.

Ellis has hit 10 home runs this season, more than he hit in the last four years combined between the majors and triple A. His second homer of the game was to the opposite field.

"I'm waiting for the drug tester to come and find me," Ellis said, jokingly.

Meanwhile, Billingsley improved to 3-0 since returning from the 15-day disabled list on July 23. Billingsley held the Cubs to a run and four hits over seven innings.

Ramirez, who was 0 for 10 in his first three home games as a Dodger, was two for four. He stretched a single into a double and scored in the fifth inning, then drove in two runs with a single to right-center that knocked Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija out of the game in the sixth.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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