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Arms race in NL West: Dodgers add Thome, Garland; Rockies get Contreras

Sep 1, 2009, 1:19 AM EDT

The Brad Penny pickup set off a chain reaction in the NL West, as the two remaining contenders also picked up pieces before the Monday night deadline to have new acquisitions qualify for postseason play.
The Dodgers landed a potential Hall of Famer in Jim Thome, but right-hander Jon Garland may well prove to be the bigger pickup. That’s because even if the Dodgers were willing to sacrifice defense at first base, Thome just isn’t much more than an emergency option in the field at this point of his career. He’ll be used strictly off the bench for his fourth major league team, at least until the World Series. He’s hit .206/.354/.365 in 63 at-bats as a pinch-hitter in his career. Over the last two years, he’s 1-for-15.
Garland is the second addition to the Dodger rotation in as many weeks, joining Vicente Padilla. He struggled in his first two months in the NL, but he’s amassed a 3.56 ERA in 16 starts since the beginning of June. Also encouraging is his 50/15 K/BB ratio in 78 1/3 innings over the last two months. He figures to replace Charlie Haeger for now, putting him in the rotation alongside Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw and Randy Wolf. If Hiroki Kuroda can return in a week or two as hoped, then Padilla would likely head to the pen.
The Rockies also wanted Garland, but settled for Jose Contreras, who was 5-13 with a 5.42 ERA in 114 2/3 innings for the White Sox. Surprisingly, they’re sending back a decent prospect in Brandon Hynick, who was thought to be a possibility to take over as their new fifth starter. Hynick has a below average fastball, but his splitter is a nice pitch and he displays very good command. He might take over the fifth spot in the White Sox rotation. Contreras will try to help replace the injured Aaron Cook in Colorado. He seems to be on his last legs, but the league switch might do him some good.
Along with acquiring Hynick, the White Sox picked up infielder Justin Fuller for Thome. A 2006 11th-round pick, Fuller has hit .254/.340/.418 in 177 at-bats for high-A Inland Empire this year. He has a quality glove and he bats left-handed, so if he starts to show some offensive ability, he’ll get looks as a utilityman. He’s a long shot, though. With Thome gone, they’ll likely give Josh Fields significant time at DH in September. It could be his last chance with the club.

  1. John Scozzafava - Sep 1, 2009 at 12:21 PM

    The two remaining contenders? Did you realy print that? Might come as a surprise to the SF Giants, that being tied with Colorado for the wild card spot, having the best pitching rotation in baseball and sweeping Colorado in the last series, takes them out of contention!

  2. craig - Sep 1, 2009 at 12:29 PM

    John S.
    You need to read a little closer. The article started by referencing the pickup of Brad Penny (by the Giants). So the Giants were included as a contender. The two remaining contenders are LA and CO who picked up the other two pitchers>

  3. Kelsos38 - Sep 1, 2009 at 1:56 PM

    Good call Craig. But the writer could have clarified his article by letting readers know that it was SF that picked up Brad Penny if they weren’t already clear on that. Because I kinda thought the same thing as Scozz.
    But boy-howdy this race is getting fun! Go Dodgers! I swear, the NL West always seems to put on a good show as the season winds down.

  4. craig - Sep 1, 2009 at 2:54 PM

    I would have to agree with you that the NL West and wildcard races should be good in the last month. I am a Rockies fan but would have to admit your Dodgers and SF made much better pitching pickups than my Rox.
    Penny and Garland are much better than Contreras. Afraid, old Jose is all washed up at this point in his career. They could run Josh Fogg or Russ Ortiz out there and have a better chance than Contreras but that isn’t saying much.

  5. richierich - Sep 1, 2009 at 3:40 PM

    So, if the first move was the Giants picking up Brad Penny, why wasn’t that discussed more in the article? Although the opening line references the Giants, the Giants are not in the headline or even mentioned in the article! Or even that little reference link line below the title for that matter! The White Sox are on the link line, but not the Giants?! Stop overlooking the Giants, for chrissakes! Penny may prove to be have the biggest impact out of all these pick-ups given that he is back in the more familiar NL… Go Giants!!!

  6. Joe - Sep 1, 2009 at 3:52 PM

    I have to say my Dodgers got the better end of all of these moves. Conteras may be done and frankly SF needed a bat not another pitcher – then again Penny hits ok for a pitcher – in the SF line up he might bat 6th.

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