You might've missed it, what with the weather and all. Hopefully, the trips to the big box stores were timed around baseball, because while you were out searching in vain for an electric fan only to find the shelves bare and thereby forcing an investment in a genuine air conditioning unit — “12,000 BTUs of raw cooling power…installed!” — the Dodgers took a weekend series from Philadelphia, bringing some serious heat of their own in the process.
Los Angeles rebounded from a worst-home-loss-since-1947 performance Friday — a 16-1 drubbing courtesy of the Phillies — with a 4-3 walkoff victory Saturday, followed by a convincing 6-1 win by Stephen Fife Sunday at Dodger Stadium.
Hanley Ramirez went 4-8, with a home run and three RBIs during the two games, while Yasiel Puig did his usual thing with five hits in nine at bats, concluding an historic first month batting .436, with seven homers and 16 RBIs. His 44 career-debut-month's-worth of hits have been bested all of once in baseball history, by Joe DiMaggio, who managed 48 base knocks in May 1936.
But these are team wins we're talking about here, and the Dodgers are playing their best ball of the season by leaps and bounds. They've won eight of their last nine games, winning while their National League West opponents have been losing, and have climbed from 9.5 games out of first place on June 22 to where they stand at four back today. They're still in last place with a 38-43 mark, but the mood has clearly changed in the clubhouse and around the city. Pendulum swings occur quickly and often in baseball, but for the moment, the Dodgers have the momentum on their side.
Next it's three games in Denver starting tomorrow at 5:40 p.m., Clayton Kershaw versus Roy Oswalt, then three in San Francisco over the weekend and three in Arizona next week.
Along the way, a trade of some consequence is possible. The team makeover has already begun, with Peter Moylan being returned to the minors and Matt Guerrier getting his pink slip yesterday. To L.A. came relief pitcher Chris Withrow — he of the mild-by-comparison 98 mph heater — for his second trip to the big leagues, and Jose Dominguez — who throws 100 to 103 — for his first. Poor Luis Cruz was finally designated for assignment over the weekend too.
With the All-Star break two weeks away and ringing the traditional-but-unofficial starting bell for teams to begin dealing, and with the official non-waiver trading deadline July 31, let's talk trades now.
With the exception of the Ricky Nolasco discussion, none of what follows necessarily constitutes rumor, and is only speculation on my part. Or, more accurately, suggestion on my part.
Nolasco and L.A. have been linked via rumor in the past week, with Dodgers scouts watching him get his ass kicked Friday in Miami, to the tune of 11 hits and five earned runs in five innings. He's 4-8 with a 3.93, has been as up and down as they come, and has Joe Blanton written all over him. Gives up a ton of hits. What the infatuation is with the guy I have no idea, other than that he's a pending free agent, and that sometimes translates to motivation and stellar play down the stretch. And sometimes it doesn't.
Matt Garza is a “free” man come November too and would be a slight improvement over Nolasco, but mostly represents more of the same. Los Angeles should pass on both and look closer at Bud Norris of Houston, the Cubs' Scott Feldman, White Sox currently-disabled Jake Peavy and the Brewers' Kyle Lohse.
There are no guarantees with these things, but any of those four starting pitchers would be (or should be) a better choice than either Nolasco or Garza. Norris is sought after, might not be dealt during the season and could cost the most in terms of prospects. Peavy and Lohse would be the highest-priced in actual dollars, which makes either of the latter two more acquirable for the big-budget Dodgers than most of their competitors. I love them both.
The sleeper of the group, and the starter I'd like to see L.A. pursue aggressively, is former Angel and current Kansas City pitcher Ervin Santana. While it's been posited that the Royals will hang onto him if they're in contention, that's a monumental “if” and I'm confident he'll be dealt in July, quite possibly by the break.
Santana has struggled in three of his nine American League seasons (and 2012 was one of those down years), but the math is simple enough: he's been solid in the other six, and 2013 is one of those years. He's 5-5, with a 2.84 ERA, a 1.036 WHIP, and is on pace for a career-low 44 walks. I think he's a special player who'd benefit by a trade to the NL while peaking in Los Angeles during a walk year. If the Dodgers are going to part with a precious prospect, Santana ought to be the player targeted for acquisition. Or one of them, anyway.
With the bullpen getting younger and less experienced by the day, L.A. needs at least one effective veteran to anchor the group, and the Chisox Jesse Crain is the perfect fit. Perfect. In the winter of 2010, when setup men were getting big money, Crain was the younger better alternative to Guerrier, out there and available at the exact same time.
The Dodgers chose Guerrier, signing him for three years and $11 million on December 16; Crain went to Chicago four days later for three and $13 mil. Los Angeles just threw the difference into the circular file by jettisoning their right-hander Sunday, while Crain is still pitching lights out in Illinois. That error can be corrected with a text, a phone call, a Skype message or by carrier pigeon, for all I care, but time is a wasting. Crain, like Santana, is going to be traded sooner rather than later, and both men would look simply stunning in Blue.
Oh, and the Dodgers need a third baseman. Aramis Ramirez is 35 years old and makes a bleepload of money playing for a Brewers team with plenty of reason to move him. He is incalculably better with the bat than Juan Uribe and he's a second-half player who hits the crap out of the ball at Dodger Stadium (.341/.413/.707, with three homers and seven RBIs from 2010 to 2012). For a career, Ramirez sports a .285/.344/.501 line, with 347 homers and 1251 RBIs. He's close enough to Uribe with the glove and is just a complete stick.
So Ned Colletti, you have your shopping list. It's not a Christmas list, remember; it's for that holiday with the fireworks. Please do not hesitate to call for additional and below-market-value advice. Fine, I'll work for a fraction of major league minimum. There, I said it.