The Los Angeles Dodgers are still living the dream. They have MLB’s best record at 30-14 heading into Memorial Day Weekend, including a surprising 7-3 mark during Matt Kemp’s stint on the disabled list.
The Dodgers have won with excellent pitching and defense so far, but if they plan on remaining in playoff contention, or taking the next step to becoming a World Series contender, Los Angeles would do well to upgrade the roster via a key trade or two before the July 31st non-waiver deadline.
The addition of the second wild card spot in each league makes it tough to know who exactly will be buyers and sellers this early, but here’s a preliminary look at 10 moves that would drastically improve the Dodgers heading into the stretch run.
The Dodgers might be crazy to give up on the young shortstop of the future after a miserable first half, but they have an opportunity to win now. Gordon's .250 on-base percentage just isn't getting it done. He's already played himself out of the starting lineup for now, so why not move him while he still has value to a non-contender that can afford to be a little more patient with Gordon's development?
James Loney, along with Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, was once thought to be one of the offensive cornerstones of the Dodgers' franchise. He showed lots of promise in 2006 through 2009, but has been mostly a disappointment at the plate over the past two-plus seasons, failing to take the next step in his development.
Loney is still only 28, and is an excellent defensive fist baseman, so there would be a market for him. But the Dodgers need more help for Kemp and Ethier in the lineup, and first base is normally a position where that production is expected to come from.
The Los Angeles Dodgers would be smart to lock up Andre Ethier with a long-term contract during the season. While such a deal may not be considered a move in the traditional sense of the word when we think about the trade deadline, the timing is very important.
Ethier and the Dodgers came into the season with lots of uncertainty about what to expect in 2012, but both have gotten off to great starts. Ethier is leading the National League in RBI, while the Dodgers, with the peace of mind of having the ownership situation resolved, have the best record in MLB, and a 6.5-game lead in the NL West.
What better way for the new ownership group, headlined by Stan Kasten and Magic Johnson, to show the fans they are serious about contending than to secure one of their two legitimate offensive stars before August 1st, providing another great confidence boost to carry the organization in the second half?
In a season full of surprises, the biggest one for the Dodgers has to be the performance of the back end of the rotation.
Defending NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw has continued to prove that he is the best pitcher in the league, but starters Ted Lilly and Chris Capuano have been almost as good. Lilly has started to fade a little in his last two starts, and after a strong start to the season, Chad Billingsley has again begun to frustrate Dodger fans by not taking the next step in his development.
The Cubs aren't winning any time soon, and a legitimate second starter like Garza could solidify the rotation for the next few years, and take a lot of pressure off of Billingsley, who still isn't mentally ready to be the staff's second best starter behind Kershaw.
The Mets have gotten off to a surprising 24-21 start this season, but their -35 run differential suggest that the magic can't last.
David Wright has been perhaps the National League's best story, rebounding from an injury-riddled 2011 to lead the league in hitting with a .405 batting average entering Friday's games.
The Dodgers have struggled to find a permanent replacement at the hot corner since Adrian Beltre left for Seattle following the 2004 season. Wright would provide an instant boost to the offense, while adding the type of star power that Los Angeles fans crave.
B.J. Upton started the season on the disabled list after a nasty collision with fellow Tampa Bay outfielder Desmond Jennings during spring training. But since returning to the everyday lineup, he's gotten off to a strong start.
Upton is set to be a free agent after the 2012 season, and a strong year could price him right out of Tampa. He's been discussed as trade bait for at least the last two years, and adding him to the Dodgers outfield would improve the team on offense and defense, even if that means shifting him or Matt Kemp to left field.
The Miami Marlins have played much better baseball over the past few weeks after a rocky start to the season. But if that strong play doesn't continue, and they find themselves out of playoff contention by July, could they give up on the spending binge experiment in less than a year?
Jose Reyes would look great at the top of the Dodgers lineup, setting the table for Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. The Marlins could be enticed to take back Gordon, a promising young player who wouldn't send the signal to Miami fans that the team was totally giving up on the future.
The Carl Crawford experiment has gotten off to a terrible start in Boston, and the former star left fielder could benefit greatly from a change of scenery.
The Dodgers obviously need more help for their offense, and Crawford, like Jose Reyes, could serve as a great table setter at the top of the Los Angeles lineup.
Given his struggles and injury history during his first year and a half with the Red Sox, the Dodgers could likely get him at a discount.
The idea of the Cubs trading Starlin Castro, the one true star on their current roster, sounds like blasphemy, but according to this ESPN.com report, there is a chance. Castro's on-base percentage isn't much better than the struggling Dee Gordon's, but he has a much higher upside, and is already one of the premier young hitters in the National League.
Maybe a change of scenery and being removed from the pressure of being the franchise savior is all Castro needs to reach his full potential. The Dodgers can provide both, and like Jose Reyes or Carl Crawford, Castro would be a terrific table setter ahead of Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier.
The Dodgers need some serious offensive help at first base, and Mark Teixeira could be just the answer. He hasn't been terrible for the Yankees, but he also hasn't live up to the expectation so the big contract he signed prior to joining the team in 2009.
Despite a slow start to the 2012 season, Teixeira still provides power, drives in plenty of runs, and plays terrific defense, all things the Dodgers need. While his declining performance may not be enough to help the Yankees in the tough AL East, his production would more than satisfy Los Angeles fans in an NL West that is collectively offensively challenged.
A change of scenery and an escape from the pressures of New York may be all it takes to get the old Tex back, but the Dodgers would certainly be happy with a close facsimile of that.