If the currency of the game today is young players under contractual control, the instinct of most clubs is to hoard such currency. Even draft picks, lottery tickets such as they are, have become so valuable that the next round of collective bargaining is likely to include a reworking of the free-agent compensation system. No one anticipated that the market value of some Type-A free agents would be harmed because clubs don't want to give up a draft pick or two as compensation.
Come July and the top of the home stretch of the pennant race, though, old-fashioned urgency took over in large markets. The opportunity to win now is why the Phillies set aside their plan to restock the farm system and traded for
Perhaps no general manager, though, better understands and executes the Pennant Race Rules of Engagement than
Colletti swung trades for outfielder
In 2008 and 2009, Colletti's moves helped to propel the Dodgers to NL West titles and into the NLCS each time, a huge leap forward for a franchise that had not won a postseason series since 1988.
"I always believe that if you have a team capable of reaching the postseason you owe it to your players to do everything you can to make it happen," Colletti said. "Any time you can upgrade an area even by an nth degree you try to take a shot at doing it."
A third run to the postseason will be extremely difficult. Colletti's upgrades may be moot, given the Dodgers' post All-Star break malaise, which includes six straight losses. They begin play tonight trailing first-place San Diego by 10 games in the loss column, and seven behind wild card leader San Francisco. Lilly gives their rotation depth, Dotel fortifies a bullpen that may get
"I think our team is better than it was a week ago," Colletti said. "We addressed problem areas that needed to be addressed. Whether it shows up in games, I can't tell you. Let's see what the next couple of months bring."
Critics would charge that in patching his club in July and August three years running that Colletti is draining his farm system. Indeed, by sheer volume, he has shipped off 18 young players to acquire 11 of those veterans. (Padilla was a free agent signing as a released player.) Some of those prospects were "name" players, though that is more of a function of the increased, often breathless coverage of minor leaguers who never have played a day in the big leagues.
As Colletti pointed out about his deals this July, "If you wanted to put together a top 10 prospects list, we feel like our top 10 are still here." That list would likely include pitchers
Colletti relies extensively on scouts
Colletti has managed to extend the season of change into August. In the past two seasons he turned up Padilla, Thome, Belliard, Garland and Maddux in August. He will fish the same post-non-waiver trade deadline waters again. "There are players that will become available the last week or two in August," he said.
Being bold and resourceful three straight seasons is a job requirement for Colletti as the McCourts wage their own battle. Despite the two straight NLCS appearances, the Dodgers' payroll has sunk from $118 million in 2008 to $100 million in 2009 and now to $96 million in 2010.
Meanwhile, Dodgers fans keep packing Dodger Stadium. When it comes to per-game attendance, the three teams at the top of the standings, all of them big market teams, all of them under pressure to win now, all acted with urgency last week: in order, the Yankees, Phillies and Dodgers. Now Colletti must hope that it's not too little and too late for Los Angeles.