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Dodger Thoughts: Two weeks to the trading deadline

With their 3-2 loss Monday to Philadelphia, the Dodgers for the 18th time in their past 24 games, falling to 48-43, two games behind San Francisco in the National League West – their biggest deficit of 2012. That includes a 1-3 record since Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier returned from the disabled list, the two star outfielders' presence failing to slow the team's tailspin.

Tuesday's arrival will mark two weeks until Major League Baseball's non-waiver trading deadline, the last two weeks when teams can trade freely with each other. The Dodgers find themselves in a predicament – looking very much in contention, but looking very little like a contender.

The mystery is fitting for the franchise in the era of Ned Colletti, who took the reins of the Dodgers in 2006. That year, the Dodgers were an definitively mediocre 46-46 and a similar 2 1/2 games out of first place in the NL West (and the NL wild card race as well) – but ended up tying for the division title with a 42-28 finish. In 2008, the Dodgers won the NL West despite holding a losing record on July 17, going 38-29.  In between, in 2007, Los Angeles was a much more robust 53-40 on July 17, leading the NL West – and ended up finishing eight games out of first.

Here's the full rundown of the Dodgers' record on July 17 for the past seven seasons, where they stood in the playoff races, and how they finished: 

YearJuly 17NL WestWild CardFinishNL WestWild Card
2006 46-46 -2 1/2 -2.5 88-74 0 +3
2007 53-40 +1 +1.5 82-80 -8 -7.5
2008 46-49 -1 -6 84-78 +2 -6
2009 56-33 +6 1/2 +8 95-67 +3 +8
2010 49-41 -3 1/2 -0.5 80-82 -12 -11
2011 42-52 -11 1/2 -8 82-79 -11 1/2 -7 1/2
2012 48-43 -2 -2.5      

It's hard to look at this table and conclude the Dodgers should fold their tent, considering how much can clearly happen over the final two months of a season, no matter how poorly a team is playing in July.  (The 2006 Dodgers made the playoffs despite coming out of the All-Star break with a 1-13 record.) Los Angeles remains very much alive, and it's worth noting that their NL rivals have their own troubles. Washington, for example, faces an innings limit for ace pitcher Stephen Strasburg, while Cincinnati just lost star first baseman Joey Votto for a few weeks because of knee surgery. Pittsburgh, one might argue, has issues just by being Pittsburgh. 

But what will happen, with or without outside help, is anyone's guess. 

It might appear that the Dodgers' fate under Colletti has matched the power of his July acquisitions. In 2006, there was future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux, and in 2008, super slugger Manny Ramirez (along with Casey Blake), but in 2007, the highlight was Scott Proctor, who pitched 32 innings the rest of the way. 

However, in July 2010, Colletti made what proved to be a fruitful acquisition of Ted Lilly, who had a 3.52 ERA in 12 starts – only for the Dodgers to fall precipitously out of the pennant race. And the one July that the Dodgers surrendered, trading Rafael Furcal for minor-league prospect Alex Castellanos last summer, they delivered one of their best August-September performances in years. 

Also to be considered is what Colletti has done over the past six Augusts, when trades can be made if they aren't blocked by other major-league teams. During the dog days, the general manager has brought in such contributors as Marlon Anderson (1.243 OPS in 2006), Jon Garland (2.72 ERA in 2009), Vicente Padilla (3.20 ERA in 2009) and Rod Barajas (.939 OPS in 2010). In other words, there is life after the deadline. 

July acquisitions
2006: Greg Maddux, Julio Lugo, Wilson Betemit, Elmer Dessens
2007: Roberto Hernandez, Scott Proctor
2008: Manny Ramirez, Casey Blake
2009: George Sherrill
2010: Ted Lilly, Octavio Dotel, Ryan Theriot, Scott Podsednik, Trent Oeltjen, Juan Castro
2011: Juan Rivera

August acquisitions
2006: Marlon Anderson
2007: Esteban Loaiza, David Wells, Mark Sweeney, Shea Hillenbrand, Chad Moeller
2008: Greg Maddux
2009: Vicente Padilla, Jon Garland, Ronnie Belliard, Jim Thome
2010: Rod Barajas
2011: None

With new ownership in charge of the Dodgers, the question of whether they will give up is moot. The Guggenheim group isn't going to spend its first summer waving a white flag.  That shouldn't be interpreted as a guarantee of success, nor of failure – just of action.

All Dodger fans can ask at this point is all they could ever have asked – that whatever move the Dodgers make before July 31 passes, however large or small, that it be a smart one. And, of course, the definition of "smart" will be debated endlessly as July turns into August.  

For more from Jon Weisman, visit Dodger Thoughts and follow @dodgerthoughts on Twitter.