Dodger Thoughts

Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball and life

Are the Dodgers looking for Lee-way?

The thought of Cliff Lee becoming a Dodger came alive Thursday when Philadelphia placed the lefthander on revocable waivers.

The Dodgers theoretically have the capacity to take on a contract that would pay Lee, who turns 34 this month, at least $94 million through 2016, if no National League team with a poorer record claims him. The Phillies then could work out a deal with the Dodgers (or simply hand Lee over), or Philadelphia could just “Thanks, but just teasing.”

One question I have is why Lee would have value to the Dodgers but not the Phillies, who don’t figure to be rebuilding for long. If we think Lee still has talent, than Philadelphia should keep him. If we think that talent is fading fast, the Dodgers shouldn’t want him.

As for whether they should go for Lee — well, if money is no object for the Dodgers, then money is no object. But if there is a limit, however high, I can understand why they might balk at the price. Not wanting to pay a mid-30s pitcher about $25 million a year isn’t a case of being cheap.

Still, it’s something to think about. Here’s an excerpt from Dave Cameron of Fangraphs.

… Based on the contracts currently on the books, the Dodgers have $135 million already allocated to players under team control for 2013, while A.J. Ellis is their only significant arbitration eligible player. So, if their payroll target was $175 million (which, keep in mind, is a number I pulled out of thin air, and may not actually represent their budget), that would leave them about $35 million to spend to fill out the roster, meaning they could take Cliff Lee’s contract and still have enough left to buy a new first baseman. While Lee’s contract would be a budget buster for most organizations, it might not prevent the Dodgers from making further upgrades in other areas as well.

And, to be honest, there’s probably not a better use of that money available in free agency this winter. Before the season started, the assumption was that the Dodgers would make a huge push for either Cole Hamels or Joey Votto — or both — but they have since re-signed with their clubs, eliminating them from possible consideration. That leaves the big name targets this winter as Josh Hamilton, Melky Cabrera, B.J. Upton, Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Nick Swisher, Anibal Sanchez, Edwin Jackson, and potentially Zack Greinke, if he doesn’t re-sign with the Angels first. There’s certainly some nice players in there, but besides Greinke and Hamilton, no one in that group has the potential impact that Lee would have, and both of those guys come with their own set of risks as well.

And, of course, there’s also the fact that signing a free agent this winter does nothing to help you win in 2012. Yes, if you think you could get Greinke for something close to that same $110 million you’d be committing to Lee, then you might prefer the younger pitcher, but present value has to be a factor as well, and the contending Dodgers are in the sweet spot where every marginal upgrade represents a significant return.

The upgrade would over Stephen Fife — who has racked up a whopping seven strikeouts in three starts since being recalled from Triple-A — would likely add about +1.5 wins to the Dodgers regular season total, and Lee would represent a substantial upgrade to their potential playoff rotation as well. Going from second place finisher to NL West champions could return as much as $30 to $40 million in additional revenues if the Dodgers made a World Series run. Even a first round playoff victory probably nets the team an additional $5 to $10 million in revenue from future ticket sales and the attendance boost that goes with generating excitement in the fan base. …

Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. and Dylan Hernandez of the Times have more, as does Buster Olney of “Before the deadline, the Phillies made it clear to any team interested in Lee that not only would they not pick up any of the $97 million owed to the left-hander, they also would want top prospects in return. So it’d be a shocker if the Phillies moved Lee in a waiver deal.”

* * *

  • Yasiel Puig has played his first two games as a Dodger minor-leaguer, going 0 for 4 in his first but hitting a single and triple in his second. ESPN’s Keith Law tweeted after the triple that Puig “didn’t even square it up but still sent it about 400 feet to LCF track.” Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness passed along video of Puig’s debut from Jason Cole of Lone Star Dugout.
  • Whose spots on the Dodger 40-man roster might be expiring? Petriello takes a look.
  • Brandon Lennox of True Blue L.A. is examining the Dodger farm system, position by position. Here’s catcher and first base.
  • James Gentile of Beyond the Box Score writes about “Hanley Ramirez and Disappointing Primes.”
  • A Martinez is going public, with a 9 a.m. weekdays sports radio show on NPR’s KPCC 89.3 FM, reports Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News.
  • Framework has a photo showing Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour raising money for the 1952 U.S. Olympic team at a telethon.


So, who wins the National League West?


Dodgers acquire Phillies pitcher … Joe Blanton


  1. Anonymous

    A Martinez’s new show better not mean The Madeline Brand show is going away.

    • Anonymous

      Funny that he was on her show yesterday. I hope they give her another time slot.

  2. Anonymous

    Lee’s lack of wins this year means nothing, we should get him.

  3. Anonymous

    I presume that James Gentile Jon mentions is not the former Oriole slugger Jim Gentile. I used to play softball with and against his sons, one of whom was a egotistical jerk, while the other was modest and affable.

    • Anonymous

      Jim Gentile was also both a Brooklyn and LA Dodger. As I’m sure you know WBB, he was the first baseman for the !958 Spokane Indians then the Dodgers AAA team

  4. By the way, Law had a more detailed report on Puig on ESPN insider today that I couldn’t read but someone on TBLA reposted that bit today. Anyway, sounded mixed-positive, and the mixed part surely in part has to do with a guy being incredibly rusty. Seems like it’d be fair for Law to return to see him again after he’s played more games. But he was high on things like power potential and bat speed.  Surprisingly to me, he said Puig was an “average runner.” 

    I actually tweeted Law this today and he quickly responded:

    @craigary: @keithlaw Thx4 Puig report. Fascinating to see how he develops. Q: “Average runner” meaning instincts, or speed? Looked ultraquick to me.

    @keithlaw: @craigary Meaning speed[Surprising to me, frankly. From video I saw and reports on him he seems quite fast but maybe wasn’t consistently so yesterday.]

  5. Anonymous

    Where is Puig playing?

  6. Anonymous

    Have we put Uribe on waivers yet? He’s a great club house guy :)

  7. Anonymous

    Remember when Jack Kent Cook said he gave George Allen an unlimited budget, and he overspent it???

  8. Anonymous

    If it were my money, I’d take Lee in a salary dump, but wouldn’t give up much to get him.  If the Dodgers give up players, they should also get some salary relief.  The biggest negative I see is that he would make the Dodgers extremely left-handed in their rotation.  

    • Anonymous

       I’d rather have a top pitcher than worry about whether he’s LH or RH.

    • Anonymous

       Ned Flanders doesn’t appreciate your last sentence.

  9. Anonymous

    I think we need a bona fide front line SP if we’re going to harbor any kind of championship hopes.  We had offense and a solid regular season rotation in 2008 and 2009, but we need pitchers who miss bats in the playoffs.  

  10. You blow the Dempster deal over a prospect and thereby tie a heavy lead weight to your leg while you’re racing for a divisional title. You have no access to any other non-miracle needed pitchers. You’ve sunk a Pacific Ocean full of money into the team in the last few months. Are you telling me you’re not going to buy the last expensive and risky ticket to a possible World Series?

    Put the claim in on Cliff Lee and move on. The Phillies aren’t going to let you have Lee for nothing without a really long and annoying negotiation. That buys you time at least.

  11. A disapointing prime is 23!  What are your disappointing primes?

  12. Six days ago, Bill Plaschke called out Michael Phelps for unprepared he was for the Olympics. It was an over-reaction then and looks positively ridiculous now.

    • Well, it’s Plaschke. Of course it looks ridiculous. The LA Times sports columns have fallen upon hard times when the best they can offer is Simers and Plaschke.

      •  He issued a mea culpa on Twitter today, which is commendable as far as it goes.

        • Sadly, it won’t stop him from being the same kind of pointlessly angry, baiting columnist in the future. 

        • Right. Twitter won’t reach all the people who read the print column when it was published. Fortunately, if those folks are capable of critical thought at all they’re probably capable of sneering at Plaschke when provoked.

          • Anonymous

            At this point, can we all agree to ignore Plaschke and Simers?  Pointing out how wrong, ignorant,stupid,shortsighted, mean, arrogant, self-serving, ill-informed, poorly-reasoned, or lazy their columns are seems to me to be a rule 8 violation. 

    • I heard that from my mother-in-law.  It makes more sense now that I know where it came from.

  13.  “The Dodgers would like to welcome 92-year old Lee Pfund
    to the game tonight. Pfund, who is the father of former Lakers’ coach
    Randy Pfund, pitched one season for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1945 and is
    currently the fourth-oldest living Dodger. “

  14. Dodgers just got Joe Blanton. 

    • Hah. I like it! Cheaper, less longterm risk! Not as good as Cliff Lee, no, but won’t have to worry about his decline while eating his huge contract.  I also think he’s better than, well, Stephen Fife, and possibly even Aaron Harang.

      Jon Heyman ‏@JonHeymanCBSJoe blanton claimed by #dodgers and sent there for cash. Not the philly pitcher we are looking at

  15. Anonymous

    Why do we even need another starting pitcher…much less Blanton. The pitching has been FINE, the offense just needs to click.

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