Dodgers could use corner infielder with power

The Dodgers own the best record in baseball. They have one of the best pitchers in baseball in Clayton Kershaw. They have one of the best players in baseball in Matt Kemp, and he’s signed through 2019. His fellow All-Star outfielder teammate, Andre Ethier, was signed this week to an $85 million extension through 2017. A new ownership group is in place. There are legitimate reasons to be excited in Los Angeles.

That is not say the Dodgers couldn’t use some improvement, even if it’s not something manager Don Mattingly isn’t fond of talking about.

“It’s hard for me sit here and talk about what we need to do to win, when we have guys already doing the job,” Mattingly said. “It’s basically saying you don’t like the guys you have, and I like the guys we have.”

But the Dodgers could use a power-hitting corner infielder. Their first baseman have combined to hit .259 with a .370 slugging percentage and 29 RBI and are 12th in the National League with four home runs and 13th in the league with a .694 OPS. James Loney’s playing time has diminished, and he even has sat against right-handed pitchers at times in recent days.

Dodgers third basemen have combined to hit .254 with a .354 slugging percentage and are last in the league with two home runs. Juan Uribe is back after missing a month with a left injury, but when healthy he has hit just .241 with one home run.

David Wright of the Mets would be a huge upgrade for the Dodgers, though it seems unlikely New York would move its franchise player. Wright was hitting .350 with 20 doubles, eight home runs and a .453 on-base percentage through Wednesday. He is making $15 million this season and has a $16 million option that he could void if traded, so trading for Wright would likely mean trading for a rental.

Kevin Youkilis is struggling this season, hitting .219 with four home runs for Boston, but he has averaged 20 home runs with a .500 slugging percentage and a .392 on-base percentage over the last six years. Youkilis has a $12 million salary this year and an option for $13 million for 2013 and has been rumored to be available, though Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington told WEEI on Wednesday that Youkilis is not on the trading block.

Justin Morneau, making $14 million both this year and next, is hitting .241 this season for the Twins, but his power has returned — he has 10 home runs in 45 games.

Carlos Lee, making $18.5 million, has hit .297 with eight doubles and four home runs for the Astros, but he is rehabbing from a hamstring injury that landed him on the disabled list.

Though their starting pitchers have a collective 3.07 ERA, second in the NL, the Dodgers have been rumored to be interested in Ryan Dempster of the Cubs. Their level of interest likely depends on the extent of Ted Lilly’s shoulder injury — the left-hander has yet to resume throwing. Dempster has pitched 200 innings in each of the last four years, has a 2.31 ERA through 11 starts this season and is making $14 million in the final year of a four-year contract.

Whether the Dodgers acquire one of these players, the team figures to be active at the trade deadline. Ethier said as much on Tuesday.

“Consider this the team that’s going to be out there on the forefront searching for players,” Ethier said. “When you start adding other key guys, it definitely does allow everyone around you to play better baseball. We’ll see who else we can get.”

NOTES, QUOTES
Ellis taking BP, but no date on return
   –2B Mark Ellis, who hasn’t played since sustaining a leg injury on May 18, will resume batting practice this weekend. Ellis said there is no timetable for his return to the Dodgers and that he would need to play in minor league rehab games before he comes back. “Hopefully it won’t be very long, because rehab games aren’t very fun. You want to be sharp when you come back, and be able to contribute,” he said.
   –C A.J. Ellis was 0-for-2 on Wednesday, but walked twice. Ellis walked seven times in 12 plate appearances in three games against the Angels, and his .436 on-base percentage through Thursday ranked third in the National League.
   –1B James Loney went 2-for-4 on Wednesday night against the Angels. Since getting held out of the starting lineup in four of six games Loney has hit .326 (9-for-26) with a double while starting in seven of the past eight games.
   –RF Andre Ethier doubled in the first inning Wednesday night to drive in the Dodgers’ lone run in their 2-1 loss to the Angels. Despite hitting just .148 (8-for-54) in his last 14 games, Ethier continues to lead the National League with 55 runs batted in on the season.
   –RHP Josh Lindblom threw a scoreless eighth inning on Wednesday against the Angels, his sixth consecutive scoreless appearance. Lindblom has especially excelled at home this year, allowing just two runs in 17 2/3 innings (a 1.02 ERA), with 17 strikeouts at Dodger Stadium.
   BY THE NUMBERS: 6 — Combined home runs hit by Dodgers’ first basemen and third basemen this year, fewest in the National League.
   QUOTE TO NOTE: “Consider this the team that’s going to be out there on the forefront searching for players.” –Andre Ethier, on the Dodgers front office.

ROSTER REPORT
   MEDICAL WATCH:
   –LHP Clayton Kershaw (plantar fasciitis) has been bothered by the foot irritation when he runs, but he said it doesn’t affect him when he pitches.
   –RHP Javy Guerra (right knee inflammation) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 3. He underwent surgery June 5 and will be out until July.
   –CF Matt Kemp (strained left hamstring) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 14. He began a rehab assignment with Class AAA Albuquerque on May 27, and he was activated May 29. He re-injured the hamstring May 30 and left the game. He went back on the 15-day disabled list May 31, and he is expected to be out until at least late June. He had resumed taking batting practice as of mid-June.
   –LHP Ted Lilly (left shoulder inflammation) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 24. An MRI showed no damage, so he won’t need surgery. But he still can’t throw.
   –INF Justin Sellers (bulging lower back disk) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 23. The problem was causing him numbness in his right leg. He received a second epidural injection in early June.
   –2B Mark Ellis (left leg surgery) went on the 15-day disabled list May 19. He had to have a second surgery May 21 to drain his swollen left leg, two days after having an emergency fasciotomy to relieve pressure in the leg. He was hitting off a tee in mid-June and was due to take batting practice the weekend of June 16-17. There is no timetable for his return.
   –RHP Matt Guerrier (right elbow tendinitis) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 19, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on June 4. He threw a bullpen session May 16 and then had to rest for three days with elbow soreness. He had more elbow pain May 23, slowing his recovery again. He isn’t expected to return until after the All-Star break.
   –RHP Blake Hawksworth (arthroscopic right elbow surgeries in January 2012 and February 2012) went on the 60-day disabled list March 27. He played in an intrasquad game at the Dodgers’ Arizona facility on May 24.
   –RHP Rubby De La Rosa (Tommy John surgery in August 2011) went on the 60-day disabled list March 26.