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Buster Olney on the Marlins/Dodgers


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From Buster Olney's blog this morning.


Contenders or pretenders?


There's going to be some soul-searching in Florida and Los Angeles before the July 31 trade deadline.


Marlins general manager Admin Beinfest will wake up this morning not knowing if Josh Beckett will be healthy enough to pitch in the weeks to come, after getting hurt again. As Juan Rodriguez writes, Beckett muttered "unbelievable" in the aftermath of his injury -- Beinfest is probably thinking the same thing.


And in Los Angeles, the Dodgers -- already without Eric Gagne for the year, and without Milton Bradley indefinitely -- placed All-Star shortstop Cesar Izturis on the disabled list, only to see second baseman Jeff Kent go down with a mild hamstring strain hours later.


Dodgers GM Paul DePodesta will likely be asking himself the same question that will swirl in the head of Beinfest: Are we good enough, in light of all of these injuries, to stay in the race? Or is it time to close up shop and focus on 2006?


The Dodgers are hanging on the fringes of playoff contention, 5? games behind the Padres in the National League West, 7? games behind in the wild card. One bad week might just about finish them. But as we've seen in the last month, San Diego has been incapable of putting L.A. away, squandering some late-inning leads against the Dodgers. If they had played just a little better, the Padres might have a double-digit lead on L.A.


But they haven't gotten it done, and with one good week, the Dodgers could be within a game or two. DePodesta should hold down the fort and hope his team simply plays better -- but there are enough concerns about this team that it might not make sense to swap some prospects for a veteran bat.


If the Dodgers show some resiliency, get better results from the likes of Derek Lowe, and get closer to the leaders, sure, then going out and making a deal makes some sense. Taking on a veteran in a mostly cash deal -- but not swapping good prospects -- makes sense. But investing young players in an effort to save a season that might already be lost would be a waste.


The Marlins stand a whopping eight games behind the Nationals in the NL East, but just 3? games behind the Atlanta Braves in the wild card, and Beinfest has the greater quandary because he has more moveable parts than DePodesta at this point. If Beckett's injury turns out to be serious -- and usually, that type of injury takes 4-6 weeks to heal -- the the Marlins would be left with a rotation built around Dontrelle Willis, A.J. Burnett and rookie Scott Olsen, who has pitched well in his first two starts. And Beinfest will have to ask himself: Is that good enough?


If Beckett is headed for the disabled list, this is what I'd do if I were Beinfest: I'd plug the hole with a veteran for the next three weeks. Go out and get someone like a Joe Kennedy of the Rockies or a Jose Lima of the Kansas City Royals, somebody who isn't going to cost you that much but might give you a few competitive starts. You buy a little time to evaluate your team.


If the Marlins gain ground, then you make a couple of more deals to augment the roster. If you lose ground, however, as the Braves start to get some of their injured veterans back, then you start selling more parts than NAPA. You put Burnett on the market and watch the contenders scramble to bid for him. You put Guillermo Mota on the market, and Todd Jones, who has done well as the Marlins' closer. You listen to offers for Juan Pierre, and Mike Lowell (although trading Lowell now isn't going to get you much because his slump has diminished his value).


But this hard question will need to be asked and answered this morning, and in the days ahead: Are we good enough?





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