Offseason moves look to improve

Dodgers' trades getting better with time

LOS ANGELES -- Emotions aside, what do the numbers say about the Dodgers' dramatic offseason moves?

From the trade of Shawn Green to the departures of Adrian Beltre, Steve Finley and Jose Lima, general manager Paul DePodesta became a lightning rod for criticism as he continued a roster overhaul that had started in earnest at last year's trade deadline, when he moved Paul Lo Duca, Guillermo Mota and Juan Encarnacion for Brad Penny and Hee-Seop Choi.

With the season one-quarter complete, the Dodgers resume play against their division rivals on Tuesday night in San Francisco. The division lead they held through most of April has disappeared and they are in third place, 2 1/2 games out of first, with a 23-20 record. A year ago they were tied for first with a 24-19 mark.

For all the debate over the loss of the popular Green, he's hitting .256 with four home runs and 20 RBIs with Arizona, not much different than the .248-7-22 the Dodgers are getting from their right fielders, predominantly J.D. Drew (.246-5-16). Finley's power numbers (six homers, 21 RBIs) are slightly better than Drew's, but his average is 40 points lower. Of course, Drew came at a cost of $55 million.

Beltre -- .238-5-24 this year -- has resembled more the five-year Dodger underachiever than the 2004 breakout superstar who enticed the Seattle Mariners to pay him $64 million. However, his third base position has become a black hole for the Dodger offense, particularly since the serious knee injury to Jose Valentin, who was DePodesta's stopgap pick with Beltre gone and the market picked over. Dodger third basemen this year are .216-2-20.

One clear-cut upgrade, though, is at second base, where Jeff Kent is hitting .274 with eight homers and 34 RBIs, even after a recent slump. Alex Cora and Jose Hernandez, the platoon of last year that moved on to Cleveland, are a combined .229-2-13. And, contrary to critical comparisons made by some at the time of his signing, Kent's defense at second base has been solid.

The most surprising production is coming from the first-base platoon of Hee-Seop Choi and Olmedo Saenz, who are combining to hit .329 with eight homers and 33 RBIs.

The loss of Robin Ventura posed a significant challenge to DePodesta to find a left-handed bat for the bench, but Ricky Ledee (.298-2-14) has been so effective he often starts in the outfield. In effect, he's a cheaper version of Finley and necessary insurance with the injury to Jayson Werth.

None of DePodesta's decisions has been more unpopular than the trade of Lo Duca, which was soon compounded by Penny's serious arm injury and Choi's offensive struggles flop during the pennant race.

His acquisition of Phillips for Kazuhisa Ishii has done little to calm the masses, but Phillips has contributed significantly with the bat (.294-2-23 compared to Lo Duca's .333-2-18). Behind the plate, it is asking a lot for a former part-time catcher to be traded during Spring Training and learn an entire pitching staff on the fly, as Phillips was required to do. Paul Bako, Phillips' backup, is hitting .270 with four RBIs.

Yhency Brazoban's development led to Mota's trade, and when Eric Gagne was hurt, Brazoban stepped in virtually flawlessly, while Mota has gone on the Florida disabled list with a bad elbow.

But in total, the Dodger pitching staff has struggled. Injuries are the primary reason, as Penny missed most of April, Wilson Alvarez and Eric Gagne were absent until mid-May, Elmer Dessens has been gone for the past month and Odalis Perez just joined the list of pitchers who are sidelined.

DePodesta's primary goal in the winter was to solidify the starting rotation and the results have been mixed. He was confident he would get more from Derek Lowe (4-4, 3.02) than Hideo Nomo (2-4, 6.75 with Tampa Bay), although he's paying for it with Lowe's $36 million contract. He also decided it was worth $24 million to keep Perez, who is disabled with his third shoulder problem in a year.

DePodesta also believed he had the depth to replace Ishii (0-2, 3.96 and one DL stint with the Mets) and Lima (0-3, 7.36 with Kansas City), because he had Penny, Alvarez, Dessens, Scott Erickson and Edwin Jackson.

Penny started the season late as his arm healed slowly, but he looks healthy now and if he stays that way can be a difference-maker. Alvarez and Dessens have been hurt, while Jackson couldn't pitch well enough to win the fifth starter job in the spring and Erickson couldn't pitch well enough to keep it.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.