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Dodgers continue upgrading with Shane Victorino

Acquisition of speedy Phillies outfielder is icing on cake after geting talented Hanley Ramirez, all without giving up a top pitching prospect.

July 31, 2012|By Dylan Hernandez
  • Shane Victorino gives the Dodgers more speed on the bases and another gold glove in the outfield.
Shane Victorino gives the Dodgers more speed on the bases and another gold… (Hunter Martin / Getty Images )

The Dodgers failed to add Ryan Dempster to their starting rotation, but the week leading up to the nonwaiver trade deadline Tuesday was nonetheless a resounding triumph for them and their new owners.

The acquisition of Hanley Ramirez ensured that.

Ramirez was the only player in baseball to recently switch teams who has the talent to be a franchise player. Players of his caliber serve as foundations for teams and rarely become available with two-plus years remaining on their contracts, as Ramirez was.

Ramirez has already made Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier appear more dangerous. And as the third run-producing bat in the middle of the lineup, Ramirez might have a similar effect on Shane Victorino, who was acquired Tuesday morning from the Philadelphia Phillies.

"Pretty long," Ethier said of the revamped lineup.

No other team in the division has as much potency in the 3-4-5 spots as the Dodgers. In leadoff-hitter-to-be Victorino and No. 2 hitter Mark Ellis, the Dodgers have two established veterans for the Big Three to drive in.

An offense that was viewed as a liability now appears dangerous.

This, of course, is a credit to the Dodgers' new owners, who promised to add to the team's payroll and did.

Between the four players the Dodgers added in the last week — Ramirez, Victorino and relievers Randy Choate and Brandon League — more than $40 million was added to the ledger.

The recent activity marked a clear departure from the penny-pinching ways of ex-owner Frank McCourt, who relied on General Manager Ned Colletti to find bargains.

"We knew this was coming," Ethier said.

This is what Ethier was promised by management when he signed a five-year, $85-million contract extension in June.

"It wasn't going to be the same old story where we're so close and we're not going to get that extra little piece to put us over the edge there," Ethier said.

News of Victorino's arrival was welcomed by the Dodgers, even if it meant parting ways with popular reliever Josh Lindblom. The Dodgers sent Lindblom to the Phillies as part of a package that included minor league pitcher Ethan Martin, their first-round pick in 2008. Victorino will lead off and play left field, according to Manager Don Mattingly.

Victorino is expected to arrive Wednesday and play against Arizona.

The Dodgers became intensely familiar with the pesky speedster in 2008 and 2009, as he was part of the Phillies teams that beat them in the National League Championship Series.

"I'm excited," Kemp said. "Victorino's definitely going to help us out a lot with leading off, getting on base. He's a pain to play against, but he's a good guy to have on your team."

Experience is more vital in September and October than in April and May, and Victorino has it. Even though he is hitting a modest .261, the assumption is that he will perform when the games matter most.

"He just brings that attitude that he's going to do whatever it takes to get the job done," Ethier said.

Because the Dodgers agreed to take entire contracts off their trade partners' hands — in the case of Victorino, they saved the Phillies more than $3 million — they were able to acquire players without dealing their top prospects.

"We didn't mortgage the future," Chairman Mark Walter said.

But their reluctance to part with top-tier pitching prospects such as Zach Lee and Allen Webster for a two-month rental player cost them Dempster, whom the Chicago Cubs traded to the Texas Rangers instead.

That means Stephen Fife, who has made two major league starts in his career, will remain in the rotation for the foreseeable future. Whereas their offense looked vulnerable for most of the season, that might now be the case with their rotation.

Mattingly acknowledged that is a concern.

The situation is one the Dodgers are hoping to rectify in the coming weeks. Ted Lilly, who has been sidelined for the last two months because of shoulder inflammation, could be a couple of weeks away from returning. And adding a pitcher from outside of the organization remains a possibility.

"We want more," Walter said. "We're still looking."

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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