Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Dodgers trade bait is NL West's Gain

Of all the moves the Dodgers made on deadline day, trading premier set up man Guillermo Mota is the one they will most regret. Say what you want about LoDuca's clubhouse leadership or the team's chemistry, but Mota's 8th innings heroics are what has allowed Eric Gagne to be the All-Star closer he is today.

Darren Dreifort, the Dodgers new default set up man, has had five 8th inning opportunities to hold a lead since the trade...He's blown three of them. In the eight games since Mota went to the Marlins, Dreifort has three losses and an 11.12 ERA.. Mota's total number of 8th inning blowups? Two...thank you very much.

Now the even better news... Dr. Frank Jobe said an MRI exam on Dreifort showed a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament, calling it a Grade 2 sprain, and he will likely miss the rest of the season. Official word is the Dodgers haven't put him on the DL yet because they have no idea who they are going to call up or who will be the new set up man. "I wouldn't recommend he pitch again this year," said Jobe. "I don't think he'll do without surgery. If he does, I would be surprised. You seldom see Grade 2s heal without surgery. He would be out the rest of this year and into the spring." Jobe said that trying to pitch with this condition would put Dreifort at risk for a secondary injury.

What makes the trade of Mota even worse is the Dodgers KNEW Dreifort has been pitching with a different injury throughout the season. Jobe also said that the club is considering an operation on Dreifort's right hip, which has arthritic deterioration similar to that which required a second hip operation last month for another Dodger reliever, Paul Shuey. Dreifort has been pitching for most of the season with hip discomfort that has limited him to one inning per appearance.

According to the Dodgers official website, Dreiforts medical history is as follows:
  • two Tommy John elbow reconstructions
  • one right knee reconstruction
  • four arthroscopic knee operations
  • one arthroscopic right hip operation
  • The next two operations would make a total of 10

Here are the financial implications: Dreifort is guaranteed $13 million in salary in 2005, plus $400,000 of a $2 million signing bonus in the final year of a five-year, $55 million contract. Since he signed that contract, he has undergone or needed six operations, while winning nine games. Nine wins, 55 million bucks...a little over six million per win.

In effect what this will do is pull manager Jim Tracy into using Gagne for two-inning saves. Something he definately doesn't need to be doing as we head toward the playoffs. The worst thing to happen is Gagne will be burned out come playoff time as the Dodgers try to hold off the Giants and Padres in the NL West race. Something they haven't been very good at the past few years.

Tracy has said that some combination of rookie Yhency Brazoban, Duaner Sanchez and journeyman Giovanni Carrara could be used in the setup role, but the best option could be Edwin Jackson when he returns from a minor league rehab assignment that starts on Wednesday night.

It was just two weeks ago we were talking about the Dodgers "indestructable" bullpen as possibly one of the best of all time. Now it is in shambles as Gagne appears to be the anchor thrown overboard without a rope.