Even for a team playing .705 baseball and finding its best game almost nightly, serving the masters of this October, along with all the months that follow, along with the almost three decades of parade-less seasons that came before it, seemed at best problematic, at worst a fool’s errand.
And yet, here were the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday afternoon, lunging into the tape of the trade deadline, clutching to their favored minor-league prospects, and walking away with Yu Darvish as a sensible No. 2 to Clayton Kershaw, and left-handers Tony Watson and Tony Cingrani as possibly clever bullpen pieces.
Late in their process, the Dodgers turned away from their first pursuit, that being Baltimore Orioles lefty Zach Britton, and all but gave up on acquiring Darvish. Negotiations with the Texas Rangers lagged, presumably because the Dodgers clung to their top prospects, serving all those months that will follow October, they being right-handers Walker Buehler and Yadier Alvarez and outfielder Alex Verdugo. As deadlines do tend to summon spikes of ambition and desperation, however, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman first covered his middle- and late-inning needs, then stunningly deepened his rotation with the powerful and occasionally enigmatic Darvish.
It cost him Willie Calhoun, an infielder/outfielder with a power bat who seeks a natural position. He was their fourth-rated prospect. Also, right-hander A.J. Alexy and infielder Brendon Davis, ranked well behind the organization’s better minor leaguers. These things are hard, nearly impossible, to predict. Many try. In previous summers, when the deadlines brought the same trickle of ambition and desperation, Friedman resisted requests for the likes of Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger, and now they’re among the critical reasons for that .705 baseball.
Darvish is a two- or three-month rental. Neither Watson nor Cingrani is Britton. Still, the Dodgers did strengthen their rotation in Kershaw’s absence, deepen their roster once October comes around, and maintain what are recognized as the future difference makers in their farm system.
Friedman managed this in spite of a deadline market that turned heavily toward some of the same arms he sought, and away from the bigger available bats. Sonny Gray went from Oakland to the Bronx. Brandon Kintzler from Minnesota to Washington. Francisco Liriano from Toronto to Houston. And, in prior days, Jose Quintana and Justin Wilson to the Cubs, Jaime Garcia to the Yankees, Pat Neshek to Colorado and the two Oakland relievers – Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson – to Washington. Meanwhile, most of the hitters outside of J.D. Martinez to Arizona stayed home.
In the large picture, the Yankees – adding Gray, previously adding Garcia, Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle – became the favorites in the AL East. The Nationals and their routinely ragged bullpen are healthier, and more dangerous in October. The Cubs have rediscovered their way. The Arizona Diamondbacks defended their wild-card position.
That’s a decent day for many, though none, perhaps, had it as decently as the Dodgers. They did not damage what got them here. Assuming Kershaw returns healthy and effective, as expected, they will push into October with honorable World Series intentions, and without having to extend Kershaw. Again. And their next generation, whatever that may be, remained intact.