Roy Oswalt? Cliff Lee? Jake Westbrook? Why not throw Ubaldo Jimenez’s name into the media frenzy?

It’s only the end of May, and already there’s endless speculation coming from all directions as to what movement the Los Angeles Dodgers will make when the MLB trade deadline arrives on July 31.

Okay, so maybe Jimenez isn’t going anywhere.

But seemingly, whenever there’s the faintest hint of any player being put on the market, especially a starting pitcher, the Dodgers quickly elevate to the top of the list of teams interested.

However, after a very critical examination of the dynamics of the squad, the question arises: Do the Dodgers really need to make any moves at all?

When healthy, the outfield is stacked. Matt Kemp, and Andre Ethier are among the best in the business. And Manny is Manny; he’s not going anywhere until the end of the season.

As for outfield depth, Reed Johnson is beginning to raise his game both in the field, and at the plate. Johnson’s most valuable asset is his ability to cover all three positions in the outfield. This is absolutely priceless when dealing with the string of injuries the Dodgers have experienced already this season.

Garret Anderson has yet to demonstrate any positive value to the club, but depending on how long the Dodgers give Anderson to prove his worth, Xavier Paul waits in the wings.

Critics say that it’s important that Paul play everyday, but in essence, half of a season isn’t really that long of a wait. If indeed Paul will be Ramirez’ replacement heading into 2011, he needs to be involved with the squad now. Paul can cover multiple positions in the outfield as well, and with the frequency that Manny isn’t in the starting lineup, Paul would see ample time in left field alone.

All that being said, it’s safe to say that the outfield is quite solid, and no upgrades are required.

Moving on to the infield, James Loney remains at the core of the Dodgers’ talent pool. His glove at first base is among the best in the bigs; and despite not having the power numbers which are typically normal for a first baseman, his offensive production is very solid.

Blake DeWitt played most of his minor league career at third base; but DeWitt has made major strides this season both in the field, and with the bat. Look for Los Angeles to continue to groom him at second base, at least until he reaches a plateau in terms of improvement.

Dodger fans always are concerned with Rafael Furcal’s health, but when physically intact, Furcal is invaluable to the squad. On many occasions Furcal can be credited as being the catalyst or igniter of the high-powered Dodger offense. His above-average arm at shortstop makes up for a periodically shaky glove.

Casey Blake remains steadfast at third, and despite his age, and an occasional questionable glove, is integral to the bottom half of the Los Angeles batting order.

As for depth, Jamey Carroll has already proven that he can cover at second base, and shortstop efficiently, and Ronnie Belliard is capable of adequately filling in at first, and third base when required. Belliard’s sometimes potent bat provides an added bonus to the Dodger offense.

Defensively, Russell Martin continues to improve behind the plate, and is slowly regaining his offensive prowess of old. Brad Ausmus is expected back by the end of June, and not only does he provide suitable cover for Martin, but he also provides critical leadership on the bench as well.

Outside of a very minor defensive deficiency on the left side of the infield, no major overhauls are necessary.

As inconsistent as the bullpen has been this season, the Dodgers should be able to solidify their relief performance with a bit of fine tuning.

Jonathan Broxton’s performance rating speaks for itself, and Hong Chih-Kuo is proving that he can be very effective as Broxton’s set-up man. If any problems arise with Jeff Weaver, or continue to persist with Ronald Belisario and Ramon Troncoso, the Dodgers have more than enough cover in their farm system. If George Sherrill finally rediscovers his mechanics when returning from injury, he could prove to be effective as well.

Heading into the second half of the season, the bullpen should be just fine.

Drum roll please.

Do the Dodgers really need another starter?

Clayton Kershaw is the Dodgers’ ace in waiting. It’s just a matter of time.

Chad Billingsley is improving. He continues to show glimmers of brilliance, but lacks overall consistency. Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt insists that Billingsley needs to be more aggressive, and attack the strike zone. Supporters continue to believe that he just needs a little more time, but critics suggest he’s already had enough time to show his stuff.

Still, with all that being said, Billingsley could easily be a third or fourth starter on just about any team in the majors.

Hiroki Kuroda is the team’s work horse. He’s probably been the most consistent of all Dodgers starters during the course of the season thus far. However he’s just not ace material—but a solid number two nonetheless.

Then there’s John Ely, the diamond in the rough. Pitching experts predicted that his effectiveness would drop off, but Ely continues to pound the strike zone, and has produced several of the best outings shown by Dodger pitching all season. Even if a bit of inconsistency arises, and a few hitters lock onto his throwing pattern, he still proves worthy as a fourth or fifth starter.

Yet it seems that everyone has forgotten about Vicente Padilla. With Padilla having spent a good deal of time on the disabled list thus far this season, he hasn’t had the opportunity to step onto the mound, and prove his case.

Although he began the season with two very shaky appearances, Padilla did rebound nicely with two quality starts before injuring his right forearm and landing on the disabled list. And despite a lack of consistency, Padilla did prove to everyone during last year’s playoff run that he still has the ability to throw high quality stuff.

Does he have the potential to be an ace? Of course not. But if healthy, and with solid support defensively, he does fit in well as a fourth or fifth starter.

But the question still looms: Are the Dodgers capable of advancing past an NLCS, or even an NLDS without an ace?

Most of the folks in Dodgerland don’t seem to think so. But let’s not forget that Kershaw, Billingsley and Kuroda have each been there twice recently; and Padilla was about one start away from being stellar in last year’s playoffs. That must account for some type of advantage on paper.

And with the recent turn around of the team, pitching is quickly becoming a Dodger mainstay once again. Even with their two losses most recently in the Cubs series, Kershaw, and Ely were both brilliant.

Most teams throughout baseball don’t have the luxury of five quality starters, even teams who appear in the playoffs. When healthy, the Dodgers have that advantage.

Some will argue that an ace can appear in games one, four, and seven of a tightly contested NLCS; but, adjustments can be made with a solid starting five if managed correctly. Whomever is in a groove, and feeling the zip, could easily be shifted into that position before the series began.

It goes without saying that Ned Colletti will make some type of move, and Colletti has already stated that he will be looking at pitching. But with a healthy and consistent starting five, why not wait until August, and consider a Pedro Martinez or a Jarrod Washburn to utilize as a middle reliever or a fifth starter in case of injury?

Pedro would certainly be intrigued to come back home to Los Angeles; and Washburn, despite turning down an offer from the Seattle Mariners last month, would surely be interested in pitching for a contender down the stretch. And the bonus is that acquiring any one of the players mentioned above or someone else of that caliber fits perfectly within the Dodgers budget.

So, what should Dodgerland expect as the trade deadline appears? Maybe that veteran emergency fifth starter/middle reliever. Or perhaps a left-handed pinch hitter if Garret Anderson isn’t around.

Otherwise all the pieces of the puzzle already exist—they just aren’t yet visible—until they come together.

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