Yesterday was a weird day. The Dodgers won; that wasn’t weird -- they do that a lot. But for the first time in the Andrew Friedman era, they failed to make a significant move at the trade deadline.
Sure, they made a few small trades — Tyler White, Kristopher Negrón, Jedd Gyorko, Adam Kolarek — but the big name was not landed. I really thought Felipe Vázquez would be a Dodger by 1 p.m. yesterday.
There are a myriad of factors as to why the Dodgers went this route. The asking price for players — relievers, specifically — was astronomical. The Pirates reportedly wanted at least two of Gavin Lux, Dustin May, Keibert Ruiz and Will Smith. They were well within their right to ask for that, but when it was clear the Dodgers weren’t going to give in, Pittsburgh’s refusal to come down from that demand sealed that fate.
That’s what’s frustrating to me. I didn’t want Friedman to include Lux or May along with Ruiz (Smith was basically untouchable) to get Vázquez. I really think the Pirates made an error not moving Vázquez at the height of his value. Sure, they could explore moving him the offseason, but they probably won’t get as much for him, even if it’s not a terribly noticeable decrease in return value. It blows my mind that a package couldn’t have been built around Ruiz and the next tier of prospect — Jeter Downs, Tony Gonsolin, Josiah Gray, DJ Peters, Mitchell White — or even some players from the MLB roster that would satisfy both teams. But Pittsburgh, obviously, values Vázquez more than three (or more) prospects from one of baseball’s best farm systems. To each their own.
Edwin Díaz was a rumored name who some thought would be a Dodger yesterday. Noah Syndergaard was also out there for a second. For the pair, I probably would have been willing to include both Ruiz and May as the headliners, but it’s anyone’s guess who/what the Mets were looking for in return for those two pitchers.
The Dodgers did fill a need with Kolarek. He has been pretty good against lefties in his career (.246 wOBA) and has been better this season. But the sidearming, soft-tossing lefty isn’t likely to be a difference-maker in the postseason. And with Kenley Jansen not being the same guy he was even two seasons ago, that could prove to be a problem. If Jansen were the guy he was in prior to the 2018 season, the trade deadline wouldn’t have been nearly as disappointing.
Kirby Yates was also reportedly a target for the Dodgers, whose list was, understandably, small. They’re the best team in baseball with very few holes, so it makes sense that they wouldn’t cast a wide net to look for improvements because some guys on the margins may not have represented true upgrades. But even for Yates — one of the best relievers in baseball who’s also 32 years old and a free agent after the 2020 season — the asking price started with Lux. There’s just no way the Dodgers were going to give into that price.
They wanted to talk to Arizona about Andrew Chafin, but the Diamondbacks weren’t terribly interested in making a deal with LA. The Dodgers had been rumored to be in on Shane Greene, but he went to Atlanta for a minimal return. I’m actually O.K. with that because Greene didn’t move the needle at all for me. The Giants’ Will Smith made a ton of sense, but no team ever got close to meeting Farhan Zaidi’s asking price for him.
In the end, the Dodgers filled a need with an unsexy name in Kolarek. They added Gyorko because the waiver trade deadline is no longer a thing, and that’s a move that would have happened next month instead of yesterday.
Some in the local media will bombastically claim that the Dodgers “lost” the World Series by not trading the farm for an incremental increase to their World Series odds. That’s simply not true because baseball players — relievers, specifically — are so volatile that no one acquisition would lead directly to a championship (miss me with the Aroldis Chapman-Cubs deal). At the same time, it’s hard not to be disappointed by what didn’t happen at the deadline. Perhaps my expectations were too high. Perhaps I was too presumptive in my thought that Friedman could get the best of Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington (who might be on his way out).
The bottom line is, I just want the Dodgers to win the World Series. You do, too. They had it sewed up in 2017 before it came unraveled (and not just because of the bullpen). Two years later, with seemingly a better overall team, it seems like a berth is all but assured. The Astros made some bold moves yesterday. The Yankees did even less than the Dodgers, but they also have been great while dealing with a slew of injuries. Anything can happen in a seven-game series, but having that bullpen ace in the hole in the form of Vázquez would make me feel a lot better about their chances against one of those two juggernauts. Conversely, the Astros may think they needed to make their moves to deal with the Dodgers’ juggernaut. We’ll see.
The Dodgers strategy might prove us wrong. Gonsolin might end up being the savior. May could be the youngster who catches fire for the next 2 1⁄2 months and helps lead LA to the title. Some struggling relievers could turn things around. The offense could, you know, not disappear in the World Series. But there are a lot of “ifs” the Dodgers have to go through if they want to win it all. Craig will have a look at what the Dodgers will do now and there are no shortage of options, but it involves a lot of guys doing things unfamiliar to them and fixing players who are struggling. It seems Joe Kelly may have figured some things out. If so, that could be a huge boost, but we’ve seen how volatile Kelly can be.
I don’t really blame Friedman for the Dodgers’ failure to add Jansen insurance at the trade deadline. There are a number of factors that led to this: the (dumb) second wild card, selling teams expecting way too much for their players, selling teams flat-out not selling. Friedman has made big moves in the past, but no single move he made at the deadline led directly to a World Series championship or berth.
Here’s hoping in three months we can look back on this column and laugh because Pedro Baez and Julio Urías were co-World Series MVPs after dominating performances. And if the Dodgers don’t win it all, it won’t be because they failed to land Vázquez, Díaz or Yates — but it sure could feel that way.