Cubs @ Dodgers August 3, 2012: Claim All of the Phillies

August 3, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Posted in Game Threads | Leave a comment

As morning turned into afternoon, all seemed quiet in Dodgertown, with only the prospect of a weekend series against the atrocious Cubs to occupy our thoughts. Then the Dodgers traded for Joe Blanton and claimed Cliff Lee on waivers, and all of a sudden there’s no shortage of fun things to talk about.

On Blanton first, in my hurried trade post put up between meetings at work today, I briefly said that I liked the deal, and the more I think about it the more I approve. It’s hard to say that Ryan Dempster is going to provide that much more value over the rest of the season – and maybe not even any, considering how rough his last few starts and Texas debut have been – and even if he does, the price for Blanton is monumentally less than the Allen Webster package Chicago wanted. Blanton’s not someone I want starting Game 2 of a playoff series, but he’s absolutely better than Stephen Fife, and any worries about the rotation being overstuffed get set aside when you hear that Ted Lilly had another setback in his return from shoulder pain. (And the $25.5m he’s getting this year and next, well, that just looks better and better.)

Cubs
Dodgers
CF
DeJesus
LF
Victorino
SS
Castro
2B
M.Ellis
1B
Rizzo
CF
Kemp
LF
Soriano
RF
Ethier
RF
LaHair
SS
Ramirez
C
Clevenger
1B
Loney
2B
Barney
3B
Cruz
3B
Valbuena
C
A.Ellis
P
Samardzija
P
Billingsley

Chad Moriyama has more:

Up until 2010, Blanton had a 5.8 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9, but over the last 174.2 innings from 2011 on, he’s posted a 7.7 K/9 and a 1.4 BB/9. As a result, while his ERA is 4.59 this year, his FIP sits at a solid 3.98, while his xFIP and SIERA are both 3.39. The move from Citizens Bank Park to Dodger Stadium could not only make him a significant improvement as a #5, but make him the third best option on a staff with a lot of solid but not great pitchers.

Surprised by the peripherals? So is … uh … everybody, but the more significant point is that he’s a solid upgrade that will help the Dodgers and might actually end up making more of a marginal wins difference than Victorino.

I don’t expect the player to be named to be of any worrisome value, and in fact it might be a way to fix the 40-man issues we discussed this morning if they unload Ivan De Jesus, Chris Withrow, Josh Wall, or Matt Angle. But on to the other big Philadelphia news of the day, and that’s that the Dodgers won the waiver claim on Cliff Lee.

I’ve seen a lot of confusion on what this means, and it really means one thing and one thing only: the financial power of the Dodger ownership is for real. The sheer cojones it must have taken to put in a claim on a player who has over $120m coming to him (assuming a 2016 vesting option takes effect, which barring major injury, it probably will) for his age 34-37 seasons is incredible, and that’s why no team ahead of the Dodgers put in a claim – because in the incredibly unlikely scenario that the Phillies actually let the claim go through, that contract would torpedo nearly every other club in baseball.

I say “incredibly unlikely,” because that’s what it is. The Phillies have three options between now and Sunday afternoon. They can pull Lee back off of waivers, which is almost certainly what they’ll do. They can negotiate a trade with the Dodgers for Lee, which seems sure to go nowhere since they reportedly were demanding top prospects and a club to eat most of the contract, in addition to needing to deal with Lee’s no-trade clause. (It’s not a full no-trade, but at the moment it’s uncertain if the Dodgers are among the 21 teams he can block trades to.) Finally, the Phillies could just throw up their hands and say “take him,” sticking the Dodgers with the entire contract with no prospects changing hands.

While it seems like a tempting way for the Phillies to trim payroll, I just cannot imagine them simply allowing an elite pitcher like Lee – and make no mistake, stupid 2-6 win/loss record aside, he is an elite pitcher – walk for nothing other than financial savings. It’s nearly unheard of. As unlikely as I find that, I consider it even more unlikely that the two teams would somehow manage to find common ground on money, players, and deal with Lee’s no-trade before Sunday afternoon. So as much fun as it is to dream of a Clayton Kershaw / Cliff Lee duo in the playoffs… well, it just doesn’t seem too likely. I’ll give it a 5% chance, at best.

As for tonight’s game, Chad Billingsley attempts to keep his productive streak rolling as Hanley Ramirez gets his first start at shortstop for the Dodgers. Luis Cruz slides to third base to make his second start at the hot corner, while Juan Uribe, two days short of two weeks since his last start, looks wistfully at the fans in town for Star Trek Night and wonders what being a Tribble might be like.

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