Despite the passing of the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, deals can still be made through the rest of the season as long as the player(s) in question clear waivers first. And the Dodgers, given their financial clout, are in a prime position to deal.
Players tend to get through waivers when teams are scared of being stuck with an onerous contract; the Dodgers, though, are in a position where they appear able to take on any contract and not worry about the consequences.
Rubén Amaro, Jr., the Philadelphia Phillies general manager, has come out and publicly stated his desire for Utley to remain a Phillie for life. And as 4 PM EST came and went on July 31, Utley remained a member of the only team he’s ever played for.
But the second baseman has real value, and he will be a free agent at the end of this year—at which point he would be free to return to the Phillies if he wanted to. In addition, the Phillies are 17 games back of Atlanta in the NL East and 10.5 behind Cincinnati for the second wild card, so their odds of making the playoffs are virtually zero (0.1 percent according to Baseball Prospectus).
So it is entirely conceivable that in the middle of August, the Phillies are even further out of it than they are already, and Amaro decides he should try to get a prospect or two for his star second baseman. In that case, the Dodgers would be ready to strike.
That being said, Amaro’s general unwillingness to make any moves renders any potential trade of Utley extremely unlikely. Plus, the fact that Utley is only owed about $5 million for the rest of the season means that some team other than the Dodgers might claim him and block any chance of a deal even beginning.
Many of the same caveats that applied to Utley also apply to Cliff Lee.
Amaro clearly believes his team should contend next year, and he therefore would be even more unwilling to give up his best starting pitcher—who is under contract for at least the next two years—than Utley.
But if there is a legitimate change of heart in the Phillies front office, Lee would be one of the most attractive options; a true front-line starter. And the Dodgers would be more than willing to flex their financial might to get a deal done.
This is unlikely for much the same reason that an Utley trade is unlikely, though.
If the Boston Red Sox expressed and interest in Lee, they would have an earlier waiver claim than the Dodgers. And—if Lee slipped all the way through— they would have better prospects to offer.
The final piece of the tradable Phillies’ triumvirate is Michael Young. The Philadelphia Phillies man is simultaneously the most likely and least likely to become a Dodger.
Young is simply the most likely Philadelphia player to be dealt as he becomes a free agent at the end of this year, and he does not have the long-standing relationship with the team in the way that Utley does.
However, Young also plays third base. At this point in his career, it’s a legitimate question whether or not he would even be an upgrade over the Dodgers’ current starter Juan Uribe (Young’s OPS+ is 106, while Uribe’s is 107).
Will Robinson Cano be dealt? Probably not. For whatever reason, teams are unwilling to trade impending free agents that they’d like to resign, even though it would mean getting prospects back.
But if the Yankees decide they want to get cheap talent for their star second baseman, the Dodgers would certainly be interested, as speculation is already linking the two in advance of the coming winter, per Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times.
It’s unlikely Cano gets through waivers; then again, Gonzalez was never expected to move until the deal went through last August, so you never know. But with the Yankees history of not selling and Cano’s expiring contract, this deal probably won’t happen.
The Dodgers have been looking for ways to fortify their bullpen but were unable to make a move for any of the available relievers. Bullpen arms are relatively easy to find in August, and Kevin Gregg may be the obvious choice.
Gregg has been shockingly good this year, posting a 3.05 ERA in 41.1 innings. There are warning signs, of course: His K/BB ratio is under 2, courtesy primarily of a walk rate of 4.6 per nine innings.
I’m honestly surprised that Gregg wasn’t dealt before the deadline, so it makes sense to be wary of predictions he’ll be moved now. But it seems that he has much more value to the Cubs as a trade chip than he does closing out their few wins, and the Dodgers would be as good a landing spot as any.
As discussed earlier with regards to Michael Young, the Dodgers don’t necessarily need a third baseman.
Juan Uribe has surprised with his solid performance, but four good months doesn’t erase two bad years. And with the Brewers clearly in tank mode for the rest of this year, Ramirez might be a good bet to move.
Ramirez is an aging third baseman, a role that provides no real value to a team that needs to try to get younger and isn’t winning anything this season. He’s still been good, though, posting an OPS+ above 100 each of the last three seasons.
Now, the reason there wasn’t even any mention of him as a possible trade target in July is the fact that he’s currently on the DL. And given that he isn’t healing “as well as he thought,” as reported by Adam McCalvy of MLB.com, the Dodgers taking a chance on him is a long shot.
In horrifying news for the Dodgers and their fans, Hanley Ramirez injured his shoulder crashing into a Wrigley Field brick wall on Sunday afternoon. While at this time he isn’t expected to miss too many games, Ryan would provide a quality backup outside of Nick Punto and Dee Gordon.
Ryan has long held the title of best defensive shortstop in baseball, and although he has probably ceded that throne to Atlanta's Andrelton Simmons, he’s still fantastic. And Punto, while serviceable in a pinch, isn’t anyone’s idea of a great shortstop, defensively or offensively, so it’s not as if he could greatly better Ryan’s anemic offensive production.
The other internal option is probably Dee Gordon, who has certainly struggled to hit at the big league level: career .251/.296/.308 line. In addition, both standard fielding statistics (30 errors in 152 games) and advanced ones (-19 runs per DRS) think he’s a terrible defender.
Add to all of this the fact that Ryan’s current employer, the Seattle Mariners, is in the midst of a youth movement and is starting Brad Miller at shortstop—which obviously pushes Ryan to the bench—and Ryan starts to look like a more viable and effective option than what the Dodgers can get elsewhere.