The Dodgers' owner has earned the focus and the scrutiny of his sport, and meanwhile, that entity once known as Dodger baseball is drifting along unnoticed, in a twisting river of events which are taking it out of reach of success.
It would make sense for the Dodgers to invest in their best young players -- Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Clayton Kershaw -- but they cannot, so long as a bankruptcy judge is musing over the players' status as creditors.
The San Francisco Giants are poised to build around a future of Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey, and the Rockies have invested more than $200 million in Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. The Diamondbacks have a long-term deal in place with Justin Upton that runs through 2015, and Chris Young is under contract through 2013, with an option for 2014.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers baseball team is basically inert. While the list of retired players lined up to receive Frank McCourt's money is impressive, here's the list of the players signed into 2012 and beyond:
1. Ted Lilly, who will make $10.5 million in 2012 and $12 million in 2013.
2. Chad Billingsley, in line to make salaries of $9 million, $11 million and $12 million over the next three seasons, with a club option for 2015.
3. Juan Uribe, signed through 2013, for $15 million over the next two seasons.
4. Matt Guerrier, who will make $7.5 million over the next two seasons.
Ethier and Kemp? They'll be eligible for free agency in about 16 months, and at the moment, the folks who work for Frank McCourt -- or Major League Baseball, we're not quite sure which -- are not in a position to make the eight-figure offers required to keep the two young stars.
And let's just say that from a player's perspective, the Dodgers might not be the most attractive team to play for, with the greatest chance of winning. The longer the franchise is dragged through courts, the less the baseball operations people can do to make the team better. For all we know, Ethier and Kemp may already be dreaming about playing for clubs capable of making payroll every two weeks. If they were already prepared to jump, you couldn't blame them.
The Dodgers are in a holding pattern. Sources say that with the trade deadline now 31 days away, the front office is starting the process of gathering information and exchanging phone calls about some of their more tradable commodities. To date, no teams have called on veteran infielder Jamey Carroll, although that figures to change, given the needs elsewhere. Hiroki Kuroda has a partial no-trade clause, and in any event, the Dodgers are not teeming with pitching at Triple-A, and so Kuroda is needed for the team to compete as best it can over the next three months. Casey Blake is hitting .244 with four homers, and while he's a respected veteran, the Dodgers would get so little in return for him -- if anything -- that it almost isn't worthwhile to deal him. James Loney is becoming a strong candidate for a winter non-tender, given that his $4.875 million salary is bound to grow through arbitration and he currently has a .350 slugging percentage -- two numbers that don't add up to a lot of trade value.
No, the Dodgers will wait, which seems to be the theme of the moment in the trade market. Seventeen of the 30 teams are within four games of first place Thursday morning, and very few teams have indicated they are open for business. Talks are taking place and eventually, trades will be made, but it may take a while.
Here's what's happening with the rest of the NL teams, as the days to the trade deadline come off the calendar.
Mets: No team has called them about Jose Reyes, and assuming that some interest does develop, the Mets would require at least a Grade-A prospect and a solid Grade-B prospect -- a steep price for a player who has already indicated an intention to test the free-agent market this fall. The Mets will listen on Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez, but keep in mind that moving either would require enormous financial concessions by the Mets; they'd have to kick in millions to complete trades of the pricey veterans.
And here's something else to note: The Mets are four games out in the loss column in the wild-card race and playing well.
In a perfect world, writes Mike Vaccaro, the Mets would give Reyes a truckload of cash.
Phillies: They have checked around on the availability of right-handed hitters and relievers; rival executives presume they will be active before the trade deadline and will land proven veterans. With a team fully capable of winning the World Series, the Phillies are not going to allow nagging weaknesses to undermine the strengths of the team.
Troy Taormina/US PresswireHunter Pence is a candidate to be dealt between now and the trade deadline.
Astros: They will listen on veterans like Hunter Pence and Wandy Rodriguez, but the perception is that the asking prices will be very, very high. Keep in mind, all of their dealings will be monitored -- but not directed -- by the wary eyes of incoming owner Jim Crane.
Braves: Their evaluators are checking around for available bats, and the Braves are loaded with young pitching to deal.
Some rival executives have wondered if that pitching depth would allow Atlanta to consider a very bold move with a pitcher whose stock has reached its zenith -- Jair Jurrjens, who is 10-3 with a 2.07 ERA and a midseason candidate for the Cy Young Award. If the Braves actually dangled Jurrjens in the market, they could put themselves in position to get an impact offensive position player in return.
Just to reiterate: All the discussion among rival evaluators about Jurrjens is pure speculation.
Nationals: They are looking to get a center fielder and have demonstrated interest in B.J. Upton in the past, although some rival executives think that Upton will be a borderline non-tender candidate this winter, given his hitting trend line. Upton's year-by-year batting average: .300, .273, .241, .237, .223 (current).
On the other hand, Upton is on a pace for 24 homers and 40 steals, to go along with his strong defense. Upton is hot right now, having hit four homers in his past six games.
Padres: They have told teams they are ready to take offers on Heath Bell, who might be one of the very few difference-making players available, and the dominant Mike Adams, who is attractive to other teams because he would be under club control through next season. Other clubs expect that the Padres will demand a very high return for Adams, but much less so for Ryan Ludwick, who has posted mediocre offensive numbers while making $6.75 million.
Now that Ludwick has started playing well for the Padres, he might be shown the door, writes Tim Sullivan.
Rockies: They will wait a few more weeks before deciding whether to be buyers or sellers.
Giants: San Francisco continues to look for catching help, and the Giants' best shot for an actual upgrade might be in a deal with Cincinnati for Ramon Hernandez -- eventually. The Reds have some catching depth in their system and they are invested long-term in Ryan Hanigan, but the Giants would have to make it worthwhile for the Reds to break up their strong catching tandem.
Cardinals: St. Louis needs bullpen help and is viewed within the industry as one of the potential favorites to get Heath Bell. But if the Cards don't get Bell, there will be plenty of lesser alternatives available sometime between now and Aug. 31.
Cubs: A team open for business, according to rival evaluators. While there are not teams banging on the door for the likes of Carlos Zambrano and Alfonso Soriano -- two average players making superstar money -- Jeff Baker and Kerry Wood are among the most coveted players in the trade market. Both are cheap (Baker is making $1.175 million and Wood $1.5 million), and both present useful skills (Baker can play multiple positions and kills left-handed pitching, and Wood misses bats and has experience). Wood would have to approve any trade. Executives with other teams view Carlos Pena as interesting because of his power, defense and leadership, but very risky because of the streaky nature of his production.
The Cubs will not be conducting a fire sale, says Jim Hendry.
Marlins: They are in a strange place, because the last thing that the Marlins want to do is to create a perception that they are selling off, again, as they prepare to move into a new park. Anibal Sanchez could be of interest to other teams, given his performance this year (6-1, 2.82), but the Marlins need him for their staff in 2012. Leo Nunez is positioned for a major salary upgrade this winter, after making $3.65 million this year; the time is right for Florida to move him, in what will be a flush market of relievers.
Pirates: They are poised to have their best season in almost two decades, so they will not be selling off. Rather, they will be looking for modest ways of improving their roster.
Brewers: After Milwaukee's trades for Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, rival evaluators viewed the Brewers' farm system as strip-mined. But with a half-season of minor league play completed, the Brewers have rebuilt some value in their farm system -- and lest there be any doubt, they are trying to win this year. If a deal could help them win the division in 2012, they will consider it.
Reds: Their primary concern is starting pitching, but they will consider upgrades at shortstop and for left field, if available. Rival officials believe a Jose Reyes trade is a long shot, but if it did happen, Cincinnati GM Walt Jocketty is viewed by some of his peers as being the most likely to step up and have the aggressiveness required to make that kind of thing possible. If Edinson Volquez continues to throw as well as he did against Tampa Bay on Wednesday, the Reds' pitching holes might be plugged.
Diamondbacks: They are looking for bullpen upgrades, with Wood being near the top of their list.