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Dodgers at the deadline: No mega-deal comes forth, but they're left improved [Updated]

July 31, 2010 |  1:07 pm
Well, that’s over with. Feel better? No? Aren’t ready to order those playoff tickets just yet?

The non-waiver trade deadline ticked off Saturday, leaving the Dodgers with a new starter in their rotation, a new reliever, a new second baseman and extra outfielder -- and the same left-fielder, at least if he ever actually gets healthy. Who knew getting in touch with your female side was so time-consuming these days?

No blockbuster deal suddenly reared its head. No fresh star power, nothing to really get the juices flowing for the Dodgers’ faithful.

So they move on without a Cliff Lee, Dan Haren or Roy Oswalt. Move on without the addition of a serious bat.

Is the result disappointing for a team in the second-biggest market in baseball? Absolutely. Is it surprising? Sorry, silly question.

We’ll leave ruminating over the size of the L.A. market versus the size of the Dodgers payroll for another day -- or several -- and instead focus on the immediate question:

Are the Dodgers a better team today than they were last week?

And -- deep breath here -- the answer is: yes.

Ted Lilly is not the legitimate No.1 starter the rotation craves, but even at 34, he is a positive addition. Granted, his 3-8 record is not impressive, nor was his last little visit to Dodger Stadium.

In his three starts since, however, he has a 1.80 ERA (four earned runs in 20 innings). And his record is somewhat deceptive, given that the Cubs provided him the second-lowest run support (3.77 per nine innings) in the majors, second only to Oswalt's (3.07).

So a rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, Vicente Padilla and Lilly is solid, one through five. That’s progress. The Dodgers will go out knowing they should have a chance to win every night.

[UPDATED:] Plus, the addition of the left-handed Lilly will enable to the Dodgers to again make Carlos Monasterios a reliever and unload one of those slugs dragging down the bullpen.

In a true deadline move, the Dodgers acquired reliever Octavio Dotel from the Pirates for James McDonald and minor-leaguer Andrew Lambo. This is another deal that makes it clear the Dodgers are focused on winning this season.

Dotel is 36, but had been closing for the Pirates (21 saves in 26 opportunities) and should be a good addition for this season. Lambo, 22, is an actual prospect and losing him could come back to haunt. But he’s twice been suspended for testing positive for a drug on the banned list. McDonald never delivered on his promise; perhaps he benefits from a fresh start.]

Scott Podsednik is a solid addition to the outfield and a serious step up from Xavier Paul, Garret Anderson, and even Reed Johnson.

Essentially swapping Blake DeWitt for Ryan Theriot straight up is not exactly an exciting upgrade. Many of their numbers are fairly similar, and Theriot is six years older than DeWitt. Still, Theriot (who does have a scary .320 on-base percentage) is arbitration eligible next season, so this could be the Dodgers’ second baseman for a while.

And then there is the deal that wasn’t made, unloading Manny Ramirez to the White Sox. Their offer: We’ll pay $1 million on his remaining contract.

The Dodgers didn’t bite, and for very good reason. Whatever you may think of Ramirez, he is still a productive hitter when healthy. When healthy, alas, being a key phrase here.

If the Dodgers had dumped Ramirez, they would have essentially said they were giving up on the 2010 season. Which would go against every other move they made, and be the kind of move that would never fly in Los Angeles.

The Dodgers are struggling to score and need to add offense, not subtract it. If Ramirez comes back in a week or two, he’s certainly capable of giving the offense a spark.

So, sure, it’s disappointing the Dodgers couldn’t pull the trigger on a significant deal to get the masses all excited. Still, in the short term, the moves Ned Colletti made have left the Dodgers an improved team.

[UPDATED: Said Colletti: "I don’t know if it was a great trade deadline or not. We’ll find out. I know that we set out to add a starter and add a bullpen piece, and see if we can add some more speed and versatility to the lineup, and we did that. How it all turns out, we’ll see."]

And hey, next year Carl Crawford is a free agent …

-- Steve Dilbeck