The Los Angeles Dodgers have made a series of shrewd moves to improve the team over the past two weeks, all while sticking with their plan of not trading the franchise’s best minor league prospects.
With today’s news that the Dodgers claimed Philadelphia Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee on waivers (from John Heyman of CBS Sports), Los Angeles general manager Ned Colletti and president Stan Kasten need to relax their position and make Philadelphia Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. an offer he can’t refuse.
Although Amaro reportedly told reporters that Lee “is not going anywhere” (Philadelphia Inquirer), the Dodgers could certainly call his bluff.
Los Angeles failed to acquire Ryan Dempster from the Chicago Cubs because they reportedly refused to include right-handed pitching prospect Allen Webster in the deal (from John Heyman of CBS Sports). While that makes sense for a pitcher of Dempster’s caliber, especially given his status as a potential free agent at the end of this season, Lee is exactly the type of player that you make an exception for.
The Dodgers are understandably hesitant about gutting a minor league system that was heavily neglected during the Frank McCourt era, but Cliff Lee is a pitcher you hope prospects like Webster, Zach Lee and Chris Reed will become. So, why not move them for a known commodity?
Lee still has four years and roughly $97 million left on a contract that he signed prior to rejoining the Phillies before the 2011 season. But the new ownership group in Los Angeles has made it clear that money is not an obstacle if a move will make the Dodgers a better team.
Is there any question that the addition of Lee, the 2008 American League Cy Young winner, would do exactly that?
Yes, the acquisition would make the Dodgers rotation even more heavily left-handed than it already is. But with 2011 National League Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw and Lee anchoring the staff, that’s a problem Los Angeles would be lucky to have.
The recent trades of Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino and Joe Blanton—the last two to the Dodgers—indicate that the Phillies are in a state of flux heading into 2013.
Including the first year of Cole Hamels’ new six-year, $144 million contract extension, Philadelphia has in excess of $128 million committed to just seven players for 2013 (Lee, Ryan Howard, Roy Halladay, Chase Utley, Jonathan Papelbon and Jimmy Rollins).
With Webster and Zach Lee both ready to contribute at the major league level as soon as this fall, you’d have to believe that Amaro would listen to a deal that included both of those pitchers and allowed him to shed all of Cliff Lee’s contract.
For the Dodgers, this move would make them one of the NL’s best teams for the next few years, giving them plenty of time to restock the farm system with more blue chip prospects.
This is a gamble that Los Angeles has to take. Put the onus on Philadelphia to refuse an offer that makes excellent baseball and financial sense.