Colletti may rely on current pieces

Colletti may rely on current pieces

LOS ANGELES -- Ned Colletti spent his first trade deadline last summer acting as if he was making up for all of those years he wasn't a general manager.

While the flurry of deals helped get the Dodgers into the postseason and showed he wasn't afraid to pull the trigger, there's no guarantee of a repeat this year. He seems to like this year's team more, and he definitely seems to know it better.

"What's different is that we've now seen most of these top prospects play at the big-league level, and from what we've seen, it's tougher to trade them," said Colletti. "First, they had potential. Now, they're growing into their potential, and it's tougher to move them. We're starting to see what they are going to be, not what they might become."

Like his young players, Colletti is better equipped now than then. He's had an extra year of familiarity with the farm system, of watching the progress of the Chad Billingsleys, James Loneys, Matt Kemps and Tony Abreus.

A year ago, Colletti pretty much relied on the advice of staff he inherited because it had watched the progression of these players from the time they signed. Arriving only months earlier from San Francisco, Colletti had little more than a snapshot of where the prospects were in their careers, making it harder to judge where they had come from and where they might go.

That didn't stop him from deals that, while falling short of landing the big bat for the middle of the order, added future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux to stabilize the starting rotation and Marlon Anderson, who provided unexpected offense stepping in for Andre Ethier. Colletti made the deals while keeping the best prospects, and the ones he dealt -- specifically Edwin Jackson and Joel Guzman -- have continued to underachieve.

The fantasy-baseball speculators have solutions all mapped out for Colletti, from Miguel Cabrera to Mark Teixeira to Troy Glaus. In the real world, Colletti is not so sure he'll have any better luck coming up with a big bat now than he has the last 18 months, leading some to believe he'll look for another Maddux-like rental to improve the starting rotation.

For one thing, legitimate sluggers have all but disappeared from the game, so the few that exist are virtually untouchable. And if one becomes available, usually because of current or future contractual issues, the general manager willing to deal him will do so only for a king's ransom.

Which is why, hypothetically speaking, if the Dodgers call the Marlins about an All-Star like Cabrera, Marlins general manager Larry Beinfest would probably lose his job if he doesn't get back an All-Star like Russell Martin -- and then some -- in return. That's the reason these trades, entertaining as they are to ponder, almost never happen anymore.

Colletti doesn't mention names he would target, but he's got the 40-man rosters of every Major League team lined up on a wall in his office.

DODGERS TOP PERFORMANCES
4/21, LA 7, PIT 3 -- Martin's walk-off slam
With the bases loadad, Russell Martin drills a Shawn Chacon offering in the 10th into the Dodgers bullpen.
Highlights: 400K
5/7, LA 6, FLA 1 -- Penny torments ex-mates
Brad Penny fans a career-high 14 in shutting out his former club over seven.
Highlights: 400K
5/15, LA 9, STL 7 -- Furcal on fire
Rafael Furcal becomes the first Los Angeles Dodger to have three consecutive four-hit games.
Highlights: 400K
5/27, LA 2, CHC 1 -- Martin's daring grab
Martin tumbles into the stands after nabbing a foul popup.
Highlights: 400K
6/12, LA 4, NYM 1 -- Back-to-back-to-back
Wilson Betemit, Matt Kemp, and pitcher Hong-Chih Kuo hit consecutive homers off John Maine.
Highlights: 400K
"If we can do something we will, but I won't make a trade to say, 'I made a trade,'" he said. "Unless we definitively can help the organization, we won't go down that path. Right now, the names available aren't going to help.

"At the same time, we're still in position where we can provide enough experience to some young players that are starting to develop to be productive. They're starting to show it. Russell and Ethier from last year -- now James, Matt and Abreu -- they're starting to bridge from one generation to another and we don't want to stray from that course unless it's for a definitively better player."

Colletti still holds out hope that the players who have underperformed in the first half (Rafael Furcal, Juan Pierre, Jeff Kent and Nomar Garciaparra) will pick it up, in which case, the club could probably survive without a major trade.

"I'd like us to become more consistent," Colletti said. "Our pitching's been very good, and it's kept us in the position we're in now, which is right there with the other two [Arizona and San Diego]. We knew going in we'd have to create runs without a lot of power. As it's constituted, we have to execute with runners in scoring position and take advantage of every opportunity, and we haven't always done that. Fortunately, a lot of our offensive players have histories of better second halves."

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