Ned Colletti is an excellent General Manager, and if he decided to leave the Dodgers later this season (the final one of his contract), there would be a few teams who would immediately line up for his services.
First and foremost, a good GM builds a farm system, and keeps the major talent. Since being hired by the Dodgers in November 2005, Colletti has kept his talented young position players such as Matt Kemp, James Loney, Russell Martin and Andre Ethier (obtained in a trade).
Colletti has augmented that group of young stars by signing a few veteran free agents such as Orlando Hudson and Randy Wolf, while re-signing lineup stalwarts Manny Ramirez and Casey Blake.
Also, for the last several years teams have tried to pry away young, home-grown starters Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw (Colletti’s first Dodger draft choice in 2006) and Colletti has adamantly refused.
In addition to building and keeping a good farm system, another role of a good GM is to go out and get veteran players who would be good for a playoff bound team.
Always looking to improve his team, Colletti managed to get two veterans Jim Thome and Jon Garland late Monday night (both now former White Sox players) for the September stretch drive. And both are eligible for the 2009 post season.
The proverbial “prospect” was traded to the White Sox for Thome, while the even more proverbial “player to be named later” (PTBNL) will be moved for the starting pitcher. The PTBNL is usually a 40 man roster guy, who will be dealt in the off-season so as not to have to clear waivers.
Both Thome and Garland are former members of the Chicago White Sox 2005 World Series championship team, and have playoff experience.
It has been said that Thome will be primarily a bench player, used in a similar role to how Matt Stairs was used last season for the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies beat the Dodgers in the NLCS last season, with the main reason that the Phillies right handed relief pitching beat down the right-handed hitting Dodger lineup.
Ryan Madson, Brad Lidge, Clay Condrey and Chad Durbin threw a combined 12 innings last fall in the NLCS, allowing one earned run while recording 12 strikeouts.
Colletti hopes to alleviate that late inning righty relief problem with Thome on the bench. Thome was OK with this situation, waiving his no-trade clause and being reunited with his old pal Manny Ramirez, who played with Thome for eight seasons (1993-2000) in Cleveland.
Just like when Colletti picked up LH relief pitcher George Sherrill from Baltimore at the trade deadline, the Thome move was also made with a possible playoff rematch with the Phillies. The Sherrill trade was made to neutralize the three lefty power hitters, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez.
The Garland move was made to fill up the fifth spot for the Dodgers, who like the more experienced Garland in place of 25 year old knuckle ball pitcher Charlie Haeger. Garland is starting Thursday night against his old team, the Diamondbacks, and likely against them next Tuesday night, too.
Depending how manager Joe Torre shuffles his rotation, Garland could make five or six starts, against the weak hitting Diamondbacks, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres. Garland should be much more effective in this stretch drive than with the American League teams he was supposedly going.
It was another great couple of deal for the Dodgers in getting Thome and Garland, and during the most recent deadline getting the dominating Sherrill. And all this after last season getting Manny and 3B Casey Blake in deadline deals. The Dodgers did not give up any of their top young talent and received veteran players who could help them in September.
UPDATE (9/2/09): It was pointed out to me that the Dodgers sent C Carlos Santana to the Cleveland Indians for Casey Blake. Santana appears to be a future star. My bad on that comment, but the Dodgers likely needed to give up someone of stature to get Blake, a needed piece in last season’s playoff push. And now is Blake is signed for a few more seasons. If I had to give up one of the top pitchers or Santana, I still give up Santana and keep Billingsley and Kershaw.
Colletti has done a masterful job as Dodgers GM in obtaining the players he feels could help his team with a World Series title.
Now it is just up to the players to prove him right.