Could Cliff Lee or Roy Oswalt Pitch His Way To Dodgertown?

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Could Cliff Lee or Roy Oswalt Pitch His Way To Dodgertown?

I remember rumors about Adam Dunn or Alex Rodriguez heading to the Dodgers at one point in time and just thinking about how it made me laugh because the likelihood of the Dodgers getting any highly-priced player was doubtful.

Even in a big market city like Los Angeles, the Dodgers never spent the money needed for an A-Rod, Dunn, or any ace pitcher for that matter. 

The Dodgers have always been known for building from within, and most Dodger fans liked this idea, but when it hasn't won them a World Series in over 20 years, they start to wonder. 

Then the Manny era began.

No one would have believed it if you told them the day before the trade, that one of the best right-handed hitters of all time would land in LA. That huge trade set off an explosion in the fan base commonly known as Manny Mania and even Mannywood.  

Could there be another highly-priced player coming to the Dodgers?

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Dodgers have inquired about Cliff Lee of the Seattle Mariners and Roy Oswalt of the Houston Astros.  Both teams happen to be in last place in their respected divisions and both players have insisted on wanting to leave. 

For example, Oswalt recently suggested waiving his no-trade clause and asked to be traded from Houston, and Lee has certainly made it clear to the Mariners that he does not want to pitch in Seattle for much longer. 

Contract-wise, Oswalt is signed through 2011 and has a much larger salary than Lee. However, this is the last year on Lee's contract and he is likely to test the free agent waters this winter.  

So, which is more likely?

If you look at most of the trades the Dodgers have made over the past few years, they have done the "rent a player" strategy, which is trading for players who are on their last year of their contract and basically renting them for the last half of the season, and they usually leave to the free agent market that winter. 

Manny Ramirez, Jon Garland, Jim Thome, Julio Lugo, and many other players have come to Chavez Ravine for this reason.  Luckily, the Dodgers were able to retain Ramirez but at a high price. 

The classic "rent a player" in this case, would be Lee.  The problem with this strategy is that in order to obtain a player of his stature, the Dodgers would have to dig into their bag of plentiful prospects in the minors and basically give them away assuming Lee doesn't re-sign with the Dodgers. 

Here's the good news though: Manny has said that this will be his last year in LA.  

After his contract is finished, the Dodgers will have $25 million to play with to use for a couple players in Manny's place.  It is likely that the Dodgers could attract Lee in the offseason, with or without a trade.  

Do you catch my drift?

Now, the big downside to this scenario of trading for a veteran ace is trading top prospects like Dee Gordon—an amazing young shortstop—or players already in the major leagues like Xavier Paul, Manny's apparent heir to left field next year, or John Ely or another pitcher.

Either way, the Dodgers will lose some brilliant young talent for a player who might only stay a half of a season.  Here's a little information on the two pitchers.

Oswalt, who will be 33 in August, is a right-handed pitcher with a 10-year career in Houston, posting a 140-76 lifetime record.  Oswalt has had two, 20-game winning seasons and for the first time last year, did not win 10 or more games in a single season. Oswalt is not known for his strikeouts as much now because of his increasing age. 

This is one good pitcher to have on any rotation because he is consistent and he has stayed healthy for almost his whole career.  Oswalt has posted a 3.20 ERA and 1,542 strikeouts over his career and is 3-6 with a 2.36 ERA this year.

Lee, who will be 32 in August, is a left-handed pitcher who has had a nine-year career with Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Seattle, posting a 92-54 record.  Lee has been pretty inconsistent throughout his career and has just recently found his grove.  Most people do not know this unless you look at his numbers, but Lee's ERA tends to jump up and down every season. 

From 2004, his first full year in the majors, his ERA was almost five and a half, then the next year it was 3.79, then 4.40, then 6.29, then 2.54.  It has only been the last three years that Lee has been able to post consistent numbers.  

Out of his nine career seasons, he's only been able to stay healthy in the majors for five. 

In 2008, Lee won an incredible 22 games, only losing three.  Unfortunately, Lee hasn't really posted numbers anywhere close to this before.  His best season before that was in 2005, when he went 18-5.  Overall, Lee is a very good pitcher and can boost any team's rotation.

Oswalt or Lee would be great additions to the Dodgers and could possibly help them in a World Series-run this fall. 

It is not certain if the Dodgers will indeed trade for one of them because it will be hard for a team like the Astros or the Mariners to trade their ace (although the Mariners have three potential ace-caliber pitchers including Lee, Bedard, and Hernandez) and it will be hard for the Dodgers to let go of potential young stars in the making.

My opinion: If you ask me, I would rather trade pitching prospects for Oswalt only because the Dodgers already have a young core of pitchers including Kershaw, Billingsley, Ely, and Monasterios.  Adding a well-known, consistent, veteran like Oswalt will only help the Dodgers develop these young pitchers. 

As of now, the Astros do not want to trade Oswalt, but they might change their mind if the right package arises around the right time.  If the Dodgers do make a deal, I'd expect it to be on July 31 as always, and we'll only know last second what Colletti and McCourt pull out of their sleeve.

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