If we go back to last November when baseball announced it was adding an extra wild card spot, the overwhelming assumption was that it would create an easier path to the playoffs for clubs. Sure, in the technical sense, it does. Five teams in each league can now qualify as opposed to four in previous seasons.
But for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and in 2012, let's be clear: it doesn't create an easy path -- at least not at the moment. For a team in desperate need of a deadline deal, and fast, especially after a three-game sweep at the hands of the San Francisco Giants in which they failed to record a single run and with eight losses in nine games as well, their options remain limited. Their hands are tied.
It doesn't help, either, that over the weekend, Ned Colletti and Co., along with a handful of other teams, missed out on Red Sox first baseman/third baseman/corner infield guy Kevin Youkilis, who was dealt from Boston to the White Sox. Normally, it'd be inconsequential to miss out on a sub-.250 hitter. But this year is different.
For one, the market appears bleak, which can certainly be attributed to the diminished number of teams classified as, you know, "sellers." In the American League, just four teams are more than five games out of the first place spot in the wild-card standings. In the N.L., there are seven. In short, more clubs think they're buyers, currently.
This often tends to be the case, especially in late June, but it's also unclear whether anything changes dramatically over the course of the next month prior to the July 31 trade deadline. Will teams fall out of contention and place their top players on the trading block? Or, will the allure of a potential second wild card spot be enough to convince front offices to keep players and try to make a run at a playoff berth? I'm not going to pretend I know the answer to that, particularly in the first season under the new format, but I'm going to guess the trade block hasn't developed as usual, in part, because of the new structure. More teams are telling themselves "we're in it." This is what made Youkilis so highly sought after in spite of all his limitations. He wasn't bringing Fenway with him after all.
For the Dodgers, none of this helps, because they certainly need to shore up their corner infield spots (shocker) if they're at all serious about making October memorable.
First baseman James Loney has hardly been productive. Through 72 games, he's batting .244 with two runs and 21 runs batted in. Third baseman Juan Uribe has posted similar disappointing numbers: a .212 average with one home run and 12 RBIs after 38 games. Not only does a postseason run become increasingly challenging with either playing a significant role (i.e starting), but maintaining a lead in the N.L. West also becomes just as difficult. The Dodgers and Giants are now even atop the standings.
It certainly looks like a seller's market, and even if Colletti manages to find a potential trading partner willing to unload a bat or two, can a deal be reached without L.A. gutting its farm system? In 2012, everyone's seemingly on track for October baseball.