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The Dodgers deadline additions of Max Scherzer & Trea Turner were massive, and necessary

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By fWAR, the Dodgers acquired the best player and best pitcher traded at the deadline

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Arizona Diamondbacks Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Dodgers at the trade deadline acquired the best hitter available and the best pitcher available, all in one fell swoop. While Max Scherzer and Trea Turner seem like luxurious additions, both were very much needed for a team still chasing first place in the National League West.

At the time of the trade, the Dodgers were three games back of San Francisco in the division, after losing a second series to the Giants in as many weeks. It’s the furthest the Dodgers have been to first place at the end of July since 2011. During the run of eight straight NL West titles, the Dodgers trailed at the end of play on July 31 only twice — two games back in 2016, and a half-game back in 2018.

The latter was a three-team race that ultimately needed an extra day to decide, with the Dodgers beating the Rockies in Game 163. Now the Dodgers find themselves in another three-team NL West battle, this time with the Giants and Padres.

“It’s definitely a factor. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t. It reminds me a little bit of 2018, kind of in a similar-ish place and approach,” Andrew Friedman said. “Obviously when we can get to July and have a comfortable lead in the west, and we can focus on levers to pull to help our playoff team, that’s ideal. Certain times, we’re not in that position.

“Right now, we’ve really got to think long and hard about August and September, so that definitely played a role in this [trade deadline] for sure.”

Turner at the time of the trade ranked sixth in the majors in position player Wins Above Replacement (the FanGraphs version) at 4.2, the most of any player traded at the deadline. Max Scherzer had the most pitching fWAR (2.5) of any player traded, and 16th-most among all pitchers. Baseball Reference WAR had Kyle Gibson — who went from the Rangers to Phillies — ahead of Scherzer, 3.5 bWAR to 2.8.

Best recent Dodgers trade deadline acquisitions

Player Year fWAR at trade fWAR w/LA
Player Year fWAR at trade fWAR w/LA
Trea Turner 2021 4.2 TBD
Manny Machado 2018 3.9 2.4
Rich Hill 2016 2.7 1.2
Yu Darvish 2017 2.7 1.0
Max Scherzer 2021 2.5 TBD
Curtis Granderson* 2017 2.3 -0.2
Alex Wood 2015 2.2 0.5
Mat Latos 2015 1.6 0.2
Josh Reddick 2016 1.5 -0.2
David Freese* 2018 1.2 0.7
Brian Dozier 2018 1.1 -0.2
by FanGraphs WAR, since 2015 *August trade

Under the front office with Friedman at the helm, Turner is the best player by WAR the Dodgers have acquired in-season, on par with Manny Machado, who had 3.9 fWAR with Baltimore before getting dealt, another parallel between this deadline and 2018.

Scherzer (2.5 WAR) is on par with Rich Hill (2016) and Yu Darvish (2017), each with 2.7 fWAR at the time they were acquired by the Dodgers.

By WAR, Turner and Scherzer (6.7 fWAR) represent the biggest influx of production in a single trade under the current Dodgers front office. The only other deals close were the 13-players, three-team trade in 2015 that saw the Dodgers add 4.6 WAR (Alex Wood, Mat Latos, Jim Johnson, Luis Avilan), and the 2016 trade with the A’s for Hill and Dodger Stadium favorite Josh Reddick (4.2 combined WAR).

“It just shows that the front office is here, and we want to win now,” said Mookie Betts, the biggest splash acquired by this Dodgers front office, though in the winter before the 2020 season. “We want to win every year and so, being a part of an organization just like this is another reason I’m here.”

It seems like all season the Dodgers have been preaching patience as they battled through injuries. Just wait until they are at full strength, as a common refrain. But adding Turner adds another premium hitter to the lineup, and gives the Dodgers a buffer in case of injuries and slumps, or in the case of Cody Bellinger and Gavin Lux at times, both.

The Dodgers in July had 57 starts and 262 plate appearances — 27 percent of all non-pitcher PA — from position players with an OPS of .607 or lower. The bulk came from Bellinger (23 starts, 102 PA, .401 OPS), which is a problem in itself. But the Dodgers lineup during the month had, on average, two holes per game.

Turner helps plug that leak (and guarantees at least one premium shortstop on the 2022 team), as do the returns of Betts and Corey Seager.

Scherzer brings stability to a Dodgers pitching staff that sorely needs it, especially with Clayton Kershaw still out with soreness in his left forearm/elbow and Tony Gonsolin now shelved with shoulder inflammation. Scherzer is definitely someone who will be pitching in October for the Dodgers, but they have to get there first.

“We’re excited. We have one goal in mind, and that’s to win another championship,” said Justin Turner. “Those are two cornerstone pieces. They’re gonna help us do that.”