Inflation has been relatively modest in the rest of the U.S. economy for the past 30 years, but in baseball it's on a rampage.
The Dodgers clearly have moved down the road in discussions with free agent pitcher Zack Greinke, who -- as we've stated before -- could be in line for a record-breaking contract for a pitcher. Some team is going to sign the top hitter, Josh Hamilton, likely for a shorter duration, but for a yearly salary that could bump up against a record haul.
If you've got the pieces to deal, building through trades can make a whole lot more sense. You acquire a player with fewer years left on his contract, which reduces your risk, and you can sometimes clear up gluts that make your roster unwieldy. If teams have different, complementary needs, a deal can easily benefit both sides. The Angels' acquisition of Tommy Hanson on Friday seems to fit that mold. They needed a starter. The Atlanta Braves needed a reliever and they got one in hard thrower Jordan Walden.
So, perhaps the Dodgers' best moves this winter will come via trades, with Ned Colletti employing some creativity and putting aside the owners' checkbook for a moment.
Here are a few proposals dreamed up by Dodger Report:
Chris Capuano for Joel Hanrahan
The Pittsburgh Pirates need a starter and probably aren't going to have the financial muscle to compete with wealthier teams for top-of-the-rotation types. They also might not have the financial muscle to keep Hanrahan, who is going into his third round of arbitration and could earn as much as $7 million next season. That's a lot of money to spend on a pitcher who gives you about four innings a week.
It's clear that the Dodgers aren't going to stick with their 2012 rotation. Capuano was a nice pick up by Colletti last season, but if the Dodgers sign a free agent starter and Korean lefty Ryu Hyun-jin, Capuano is clearly expendable. As we stated yesterday, Brandon League seems more like a setup guy than a closer because of his inability to get lefties out. Hanrahan could stabilize the end of games and give the Dodgers a murderer's row of hard throwers leading to the ninth inning.
Dee Gordon, Zach Lee and Player X for James Shields
Dee Gordon is one of the fastest players in the major leagues. Lee is perhaps the Dodgers' top pitching prospect. This one, in some respects, would hurt more than losing a veteran like Capuano. But Gordon is blocked for the foreseeable future by Hanley Ramirez and, if he's sent to Triple-A in March, he's not going to be a happy player. Lee is tough to give up, but the way the Dodgers have started pouring money into scouting and development, it won't be long before their farm system is as strong as it once was.
It might take another prospect to land Shields, because the Tampa Bay Rays, who probably don't have the money to keep Shields and David Price, will have plenty of suitors in a pitching-starved game.
Lee and Joc Pederson for Jon Lester
The Kansas City Star reported last week that the Royals had been in discussions with the Boston Red Sox about acquiring Lester for their top prospect, slugger Wil Meyers. That would seem to indicate that the Red Sox are at least open to listening to offers for the 28-year-old left-hander.
Lester didn't have his finest season in 2012, going 9-14 with a 4.82 ERA, but the Dodgers saw what switching leagues and leaving Boston can do to a pitcher's fortunes. Josh Beckett had a 5.23 ERA in Boston and a 2.93 ERA in Los Angeles. Lester can be one of the most ferocious competitors in baseball when he's right and, assuming he is healthy, the Dodgers should be willing to part with a couple of high-end prospects to acquire a player with ace qualities. You just have to be sure that, if he and Beckett dine on chicken and beer together, it's not in the dugout.