Dodgers Attempt to Trade Up
The Dodgers added a pitcher bound for the Hall of Fame, swapped a middle infielder, acquired a better-hitting middle infielder and traded away a quality prospect in the final minutes before Monday’s 1 p.m. trading deadline.
In the latest deals intended to help the team climb from last place in the National League West toward a playoff run, the Dodgers acquired pitcher Greg Maddux from the Chicago Cubs for infielder Cesar Izturis, then picked up infielder Julio Lugo from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for top prospect Joel Guzman and minor league outfielder Sergio Pedroza.
The Dodgers stand five games out of first place and five games under .500, coming off a weekend sweep of the Washington Nationals.
“The club has played well this weekend,” Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti said. “We don’t feel we’re that far away.”
Said Maddux: “There’s plenty of time to make up five games.”
Maddux, 40, figures to bump Aaron Sele from the Dodgers’ starting rotation. Maddux has four Cy Young awards and 327 career victories, 12th on the all-time list and second only to Roger Clemens among active pitchers.
Maddux is 9-11 with a 4.69 earned-run average this season. He has pitched six innings or more in nine consecutive starts, but he has a 5.46 ERA in that span.
“He’s not what he once was when he was winning Cy Young awards,” Colletti said. “We still think he’s got the ability to win and pitch and keep his team in games.”
Maddux went 5-0 in April but is 4-11 since then. According to STATS LLC, the only pitchers to start at least 12 games since May 1 and post a lower winning percentage are Mark Hendrickson (3-11) and Jae Seo (2-7). Colletti traded Seo for Hendrickson last month.
Lugo, 30, the Devil Rays’ starting shortstop, will play second base for now, in place of the injured Jeff Kent. Lugo is hitting .308, with 12 home runs and 18 stolen bases. Nomar Garciaparra, the Dodgers’ injured first baseman, leads the team with 12 home runs.
The impetus for replacing Izturis with Lugo, and for acquiring infielder Wilson Betemit last week, was to compensate for the losses of Kent and Garciaparra to the disabled list. “You’re talking about losing a lot of your offense,” Colletti said.
The Dodgers expect that Garciaparra (sprained knee) and Kent (strained side muscle) will sit out another 10 days to two weeks. Colletti said the Lugo trade was “absolutely no indication” that the rehabilitation period for either Garciaparra or Kent might be significantly longer than expected.
When Kent returns, Colletti said, the Dodgers will figure out what to do with Lugo. “I’m not worried about what’s going to transpire two or three weeks down the line,” Colletti said.
He might have a more immediate worry, depending on how Lugo reacts to playing second base. The Boston Red Sox discussed trading second baseman Mark Loretta to the St. Louis Cardinals and replacing him with Lugo, but the Red Sox backed away when they became aware Lugo had little interest in playing second base.
Colletti said he had not spoken with Lugo, but was under the impression he would play second base “as long as he’s viewed as a shortstop when he hits the market” as a free agent this fall.
In the Hendrickson trade, Colletti also acquired catcher Toby Hall, without asking Hall whether he would be content to be a backup in Los Angeles after starting in Tampa Bay. Hall has since expressed his unhappiness.
Dan Lozano, the agent for Lugo, said the Dodgers had not spoken with him before the trade.
“Julio is a pro,” Lozano said. “He’ll make the transition for the next two months and give the team 100% of his efforts. After the season, Julio will consider himself a shortstop.”
With Rafael Furcal in the first season of a three-year, $39-million contract, that apparently would preclude the Dodgers’ retaining Lugo beyond this season. For a two-month rental, then, that makes the price of Guzman and Pedroza seemingly high.
“There’s clearly a lot of upside in Guzman and Pedroza,” Colletti said. “When you’re trying to win, sometimes you have to take a chance.”
Guzman, 21, ranked as the Dodgers’ top prospect last year, hit .297 with 11 home runs at triple-A Las Vegas.
The Dodgers soured on Guzman in part because he sulked when other prospects were called up to the major leagues before him and in part because they could not determine the appropriate position for him. He has played shortstop, third base, left field and first base over the last year, and the Dodgers have established players or other prospects at those positions.
Pedroza, 22, a former Cal State Fullerton standout, hit .281 with 21 home runs at Class-A Columbus (Ga.).
Colletti has traded five minor leaguers within the last week, in trades for Lugo, Betemit and reliever Elmer Dessens. In his eight months on the job, Colletti also has traded youngsters in catcher Dioner Navarro and pitchers Edwin Jackson and Chuck Tiffany.
He has, however, retained the perceived cream of the crop in pitchers Chad Billingsley, Jonathan Broxton and Scott Elbert, infielder Andy LaRoche, outfielders Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp and catcher Russell Martin. “The system is very strong,” Colletti said. “The players that are repeatedly asked about are all still here.”
Indeed, Colletti said, the Cubs initially asked for prospects for Maddux. Instead, they got Izturis, 26, a Gold Glove shortstop in 2004 and an All-Star in 2005. The Cubs will play him at shortstop.
Izturis underwent elbow surgery last year, and the Dodgers signed Furcal to replace him. When Izturis returned in June, the Dodgers used him at third base. When they acquired Betemit last week, they moved Izturis to second base.
Maddux, who lives in Las Vegas and has a vacation home in Dana Point, said he wanted to play on the West Coast and agreed to waive his no-trade clause for “a couple teams,” presumably the Dodgers and San Diego Padres. He said he has not decided whether to play next season but, if he does, the Dodgers would “absolutely” have the first shot to sign him.
The Dodgers haven’t won a World Series game since 1988, but Maddux, Brad Penny and Derek Lowe all have.
“I’ve been in races before,” Maddux said. “I know I like being in them a lot more than being out of them.”
The Dodgers’ payroll increased by $650,000 this season, with the Cubs agreeing to pay $2 million toward the $3 million left on Maddux’s contract. The Dodgers are believed to be free of the $4.15 million owed to Izturis next season.
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Lowest winning percentages among starting pitchers, since May 1 (minimum 12 starts):
*--* PITCHER W-L ERA PCT Mark Hendrickson 3-11 4.68 214 Jae Seo 2-7 5.87 222 Greg Maddux 4-11 5.77 267 Sean Marshall 3-8 5.18 273 Jeff Weaver 3-8 5.90 273
Source: STATS LLC
Coming and going
DEAL WITH CUBS
* Acquired: Four-time Cy Young Award winner Greg Maddux (age 40, 9-11, 4.69 ERA).
* Traded: Former Gold Glove infielder Cesar Izturis (age 26, .252, 12 RBIs).
DEAL WITH DEVIL RAYS
* Acquired: Shortstop Julio Lugo (age 30, .308, 12 home runs, 27 RBIs, 18 stolen bases).
* Traded: Minor league third baseman Joel Guzman (age 21) and outfielder Sergio Pedroza (age 22).