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Dodgers are ready to deal this year, but can they find a partner?

The Dodgers have new owners who say the purse strings have been loosened since the Frank McCourt years. But with more teams in playoff contention, the trade market has been slow to develop.

June 18, 2012|By Dylan Hernandez
  • Houston's Carlos Lee, top left, Milwaukee's Zack Greinke, center, and Minnesota's Justin Morneau, bottom left, are players Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti will be keeping his eye on as the trade deadline draws closer.
Houston's Carlos Lee, top left, Milwaukee's Zack Greinke,… (Bob Levey, Jamie Squire,…)

With new owners in place, the Dodgers say they are no longer under the economic hardships that prevented them from landing frontline pitcher CC Sabathia at the 2008 nonwaiver trade deadline.

But the capacity to add to the team's payroll alone won't make deals happen.

General Manager Ned Colletti says he has been on the phone with other GMs since the beginning of May, but has found the trade market slow to develop – even more than in past seasons. He attributes that to the change in the playoff format, which has added an extra wild-card team in each league.

"The second wild card has kept an extra eight or nine clubs in it," Colletti said. "They have no real reason to act quickly."

So Colletti waits. He is waiting for teams to drop out of contention. He's waiting for the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline to approach and force teams to decide if they'll be buyers or sellers.

Through Sunday, only three major league teams were 10 or more games out of the second wild-card position in their league: the Minnesota Twins (101/2 games), the San Diego Padres (111/2) and the Chicago Cubs (13).

Colletti estimates the Dodgers will have five or six potential trade partners at the deadline.

While Colletti remains unclear on which teams those will be, he has identified his team's needs. He wants to add an arm to the rotation and a bat to the lineup. He would also like add a left-hander to a bullpen that currently has only one, Scott Elbert.

The Dodgers aren't expected to encounter the kind of roadblock they did in 2008. That year, they worked out a deal to send a package of prospects to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Sabathia, third baseman Casey Blake and utilityman Jamey Carroll, but owner Frank McCourt vetoed it because he couldn't afford to take on their salaries. That potential trade didn't include third baseman Andy LaRoche or right-hander Bryan Morris, with whom the Dodgers parted later that month in a three-way deal to acquire Manny Ramirez.

The following year, the Dodgers thought they were in prime position to add former Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee. This time, it wasn't a shortage of cash that scuttled a potential deal, but a shortage of top-tier prospects in their minor league system. The Cleveland Indians traded Lee to the Philadelphia Phillies, who offered a superior package of prospects.

The Dodgers' farm system remains thin on position players. Their top outfield prospect, Alfredo Silverio, is out for the year recovering from injuries sustained in an off-season car accident. The next-best, outfielder Joc Pederson, is still in Class A.

What the Dodgers do have in abundance are pitchers, as scouting director Logan White has collected a group of hard throwers in recent drafts. Among them are former first-round picks Zach Lee, Ethan Martin and Chris Reed.

Colletti said potential sellers have so far indicated they are inclined to move only impending free agents, which further shrinks what already figures to be a seller's market.

Hitters who fit that category include first basemen Carlos Lee of the Houston Astros and Justin Morneau of the Twins and Padres outfielder Carlos Quentin. Lee or Morneau would be an offensive upgrade at a position where James Loney has driven in only 21 runs for the Dodgers.

The list of soon-to-be free-agent pitchers includes Ryan Dempster of the Cubs, Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum of the Milwaukee Brewers, and Brandon McCarthy and Bartolo Colon of the Oakland Athletics.

If the Dodgers add an arm, they could move 22-year-old Nathan Eovaldi to the bullpen or back to the minors.

"You never have enough pitching," Colletti said. "We're going to continue to build depth."

But Dempster was placed on the 15-day disabled list Monday because of a tight side muscle. Meanwhile, Marcum was scratched from his scheduled start Tuesday because of tightness in his elbow.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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