ATLANTA – The trade deadline is not what it used to be.
In years past, players could settle in after July 31 came and went, confident they wouldn’t be scrambling to pack up their homes in the midst of the season. Conversely, players stuck in bad situations or on miserable teams were stranded for another few months.
After Kevin Correia made two of his worst starts of the season for the Minnesota Twins on July 20 and 25 in front of a host of other teams' scouts, he figured his chances of escaping the last-place team weren’t great.
"I kind of figured at that point, it [a trade] probably wouldn't happen," Correia said. "But I knew you can clear waivers. It wasn’t something I was thinking about every day, but in the back of your mind, you know it’s a possibility."
Now, August has become nearly as active for trades as July is, with bad teams looking to offload contracts and other teams willing to scoop up the overpaid or underperforming castoffs – once they've cleared waivers -- to fill specific needs. Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti has made a niche for himself in August, which is why he didn’t seem to be sweating it too much when he couldn't do anything to shore up the back of the Dodgers' rotation by the deadline.
So far, Colletti’s two post-deadline moves, fine-print transactions though they were, have achieved exactly what he was looking to do: They’ve made everybody less freaked out about the Nos. 4 and 5 spots in the rotation. Correia pitched six strong innings in the Dodgers' 6-2 win over the Atlanta Braves Monday night, three days after Colletti's other acquisition, Roberto Hernandez, pitched six strong innings in a loss at Milwaukee.
And don't think the people in the Dodgers clubhouse didn’t notice when the trade deadline came and went without any action. Getting a couple of veterans in the ensuing week was, to quote manager Don Mattingly, a "shot in the arm," particularly when both performed well, suggesting a change in scenery to a winning team could suit both players. Hernandez played on another last-place team, the Philadelphia Phillies. Colletti also added utility infielder Darwin Barney, who made his Dodgers debut Monday as a pinch hitter, rapping a sharply hit grounder to the left side that was gobbled up nicely by Chris Johnson for an out.
"Right now, we'll take whatever comes our way and roll with it," Carl Crawford said.
The plan is to leave Hernandez in the rotation as the fill-in for injured Josh Beckett, but Mattingly said Correia, once he recovers from Monday's start, will pitch out of the bullpen moving forward. That is a vote of confidence in veteran Dan Haren, who had one of his finest outings of the year last week in Anaheim, California. But Correia hasn't made a relief appearance in two years, and, while the Dodgers won't say it publicly, he's their safety net if Haren reverts to the form of his previous five starts, in which he had a 10.03 ERA.
Together, Hernandez and Correia will cost the Dodgers about $3 million for the remainder of this season. Both are free agents in November. For a team that spends as lavishly as the Dodgers, that seems a reasonable sum to fix what was clearly the team's most glaring hole.
Before the deadline, Colletti talked about adding depth, comparing the final two months of a baseball season to a long march through a hot desert. Having some new fresh legs never hurts, but often, having fresh arms is even better.