As reported earlier, the Dodgers placed five players on waivers before finishing a sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday. However, the moves on the roster should not be taken as an act of desperation to possibly make the playoffs this season.
The Dodgers are most likely preparing for next season by placing Manny Ramirez, Casey Blake, Scott Podsednik, Hiroki Kuroda, Jay Gibbons and Ted Lilly on waivers. Many analysts are speculating the Boys in Blue are preparing to have extra funds next season by cutting a little payroll with aging players.
In addition, all the before-mentioned players, with the exception of Casey Blake, are free agents at the end of the season. The Dodgers may be trying to save some money by picking up players with a lower rate and a couple years remaining on their contracts.
Manny Ramirez will clearly be in a Designated Hitter role by next season, if not sooner. There is a possibility that the Dodgers would allow another team to claim him and take over his salary straight across. The Chicago White Sox have been the clear front-runner for his services, and no other National League team has claimed him.
If another team claims Ramirez, the Dodgers and the team taking him have the option of the new team completely taking over his contract. The differed money owed to the aging slugger would no longer need to be factored in next season.
Casey Blake has been a productive bat in L.A.'s line-up this season, but there is a strong free agent market approaching at third base following the conclusion of the 2010 season. With Rafael Furcal possibly returning to the Dodgers before the end of the season, and the rosters expanding September 1, there is a potential to trade Blake and find a cheaper "patch" solution to fill in until the offseason. Ronnie Belliard is also available to play third base, and he has shown some production in limited at-bats.
Also, the Dodgers have too many outfielders with Manny still around. Podsednik was likely placed on waivers, ironically, due to his recent production. The Dodgers still have Reed Johnson as their fourth outfielder should Podsednik go and Manny stays. If both Podsednik and Ramirez found new teams before the end of the season, Xavier Paul could fill in starting in September.
Hiroki Kuroda is an attractive option for bubble teams needing to firm up their rotation down the home stretch. However, it would likely take a starter in return to get Kuroda. A theory might be the resurgence and call-up of John Ely to fill the rotation should Kuroda get dealt. Kuroda is the highest paid pitcher on the Dodgers' roster, and clearing out his contract will provide flexibility for the Dodgers when attempting to acquire a front-of-the-rotation starter in the offseason.
Gibbons was placed on waivers for the same reason Podsednik hit the wires. If one outfielder is dealt, most likely the rest will be pulled back off waivers, regardless of which teams claim them and what they have to offer. Placing several outfielders on waivers provides flexibility and stability during negotiations.
With Manny no longer on the roster, and Kuroda possibly being moved, the Dodgers would have significant payroll for their primary targets in 2011: A power bat and a frontline starting pitcher.
The waiver picture will become much clearer for the Dodgers and fans on Tuesday, when the waiver period ends for these players and negotiations with teams begin.