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Dodgers trade deadline history: Yu Darvish comes to LA

Revisiting the Dodgers’ acquisition of Yu Darvish just over five years later.

MLB: World Series-Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

In recent years, the Dodgers have made a huge splash at the deadline three times, acquiring Yu Darvish in 2017, Manny Machado in 2018, and Trea Turner and Max Scherzer in 2021. The Dodgers did not win a championship in any of those years and did not re-sign any of the acquired players once their contract expired.

Over the next three weeks, every Wednesday, I’ll be taking a look back at each of those trades. Today, we travel back to 2017.

2017: Dodgers bring in the biggest arm on the market

Dodgers acquire: RHP Yu Darvish

Dodgers send: UTL Willie Calhoun, RHP A.J. Alexy, IF Brendon Davis

The Dodgers were the best team in the National League in 2017 and wanted to make sure they did everything they could to bring home a World Series. Dodgers GM Andrew Friedman made the move for Darvish.

At the time, Darvish was a four-time All-Star who was not necessarily having the best year by his lofty standards. His ERA was north of 4.00, strikeouts per nine innings were down from the year prior, but he had a lot to offer. In the trade deadline’s final seconds, Friedman pulled the trigger.

As a Dodger, Darvish impressed. In nine regular season outings, Darvish held opposing hitters to a .235 average, going 4-3 with a 3.44 ERA. He made four postseason starts, one in each of the NLDS and NLCS, and two in the World Series.

His first two playoff starts, both on the road, were incredible.

  • 2017 NLDS Game 3: 5 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 7 strikeouts, 0 walks
  • 2017 NLCS Game 3: 6.1 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 7 strikeouts, 0 walks

Darvish had become the ace the Dodgers were hoping he’d be when they traded for him. He was doing exactly what they hoped he’d do... then the World Series came along. In two World Series starts including Game 7 at Dodger Stadium, Darvish got lit up.

  • 2017 World Series Game 3: 1.2 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 0 strikeouts
  • 2017 World Series Game 7: 1.2 IP, 3 H, 4 ER, 0 strikeouts

After striking out seven in each of his first two playoff starts, Darvish didn’t strikeout a single Astro. Maybe he was tipping pitches, maybe the Astros knew what was coming. Regardless, he was a different pitcher. Darvish signed a six-year deal with the Cubs the following offseason.

Let’s look at what the Dodgers gave up in this trade. The big piece was Willie Calhoun who immediately became the Rangers’ No. 2 prospect. Calhoun’s time in Texas did not go how either side expected it to. Over the span of six years, Calhoun played in a total of 253 games with the Rangers at the big league level.

Despite being a career .240 hitter spanning 854 at bats, Calhoun has a career WAR of -1.7. His career is very comparable to that of Jo Adell, who despite being one of the top prospects in baseball, has been up and down to begin his major league career with the Angels and currently has a career -1.7 WAR in 522 at bats.

Simply put, Calhoun never turned into the productive every day player that the Rangers hoped he’d be as the main piece in a deal for their biggest asset at the time. After being designated for assignment and eventually sent down once again in 2022, Calhoun requested a trade and was sent to the San Francisco Giants for Steven Duggar.

A.J. Alexy is still just 24 years old but is yet to make any sort of real impact on the Rangers’ major league club. He’s thrown just thirty career innings with a 6.40 big league ERA. In almost 400 minor league innings, his ERA is 3.93. Obviously, one statistic does not tell the entire story, but it’s clear that Alexy has struggled to take steps forward towards a productive major league career. There’s obviously still time for him to put the pieces together, but it would surprise me if this is one that came back to bite the Dodgers.

Brendon Davis has bounced around a couple different minor league systems and made his MLB debut this past year, going 2-10 in three games with the Tigers in October.

It’s safe to say the Dodgers did not give up anything of real value in this trade. Despite the Dodgers coming one game short of a World Series title and Darvish being on the mound in that game, this is a trade you make every single time.

Grade: A-