Trading for stars, changing the game to make it faster, it all seems to reach a fever pitch when a deadline looms.
Baseball is making the most money ever in its history. Baseball has more parity in the ranks than ever in history. The Los Angeles Dodgers have their best record now since the end of the 1974 season and are on a stretch better than any team since the turn of the last century.
Yu Darvish, Sonny Gray, Justin Verlander, Brad Hand, and Zach Britton. Pitch clocks, four-finger walks, and other time management tick tocks. We are always looking for something better, faster, and more convenient.
Progress is never a bad thing. However, when progress interferes with patience, we usually end up with someone worse than what we started with. On the other hand, recognizing when to change is also a virtue.
Recent history tells us that it is the Dodgers farm system and non-traditional free agent signings that has gotten the team to their current place in history. It is also the game of baseball, in its historical form that has gotten it to its current place. You see the game of the baseball is nearly the same game it was as played a hundred years ago. Furthermore, the Dodgers are great this year because their farm system has performed as planned, not because of deadline trades.
Think about the Dodgers best players this year. Corey Seager, draftee. Cody Bellinger, draftee. Yasiel Puig, international signee. Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, Pedro Baez, draftees. Justin Turner and Chris Taylor, picked up with little to no cost to the team.
As a matter of fact, President of Baseball Operation Andrew Friedman, General Manager Farhan Zaidi, and the Dodgers front office to date have not made a bad trade. They live and thrive on keeping their top prospects, or their blue chip prospect(s), while trading away quantity (three prospects instead of two, etc.) over quality.
The Dodgers trade for pitcher Rich Hill and outfielder Josh Reddick in 2016 before the July trade deadline is a perfect example. Instead of trading a top prospect, they traded bulk in three relief/starting pictures for two rentals. Frankie Montas, Grant Holmes, and Jharel Cotton went to the A’s, while Hill and Reddick came to the Dodgers.
Understandably, Sonny Gray likely has a longer career ahead of him than Rich Hill does, but he is also injury prone like Hill, but Gray would come at a steeper cost to the Dodgers in terms of prospects than Hill. Yu Darvish, in similar fashion, is a two-three month rental, with significant injury history, but the Rangers initial demand was one of the Dodgers two top prospects. A simple math experiment says that is a bad idea, two-three months of team control versus at least six years of control and far less salary.
How about the market’s available relievers? Zach Britton is under team control beyond this season, but relievers only pitch one inning of relief every few days and Britton has significant injury history. The smart play here is to wait out the storm and trade only where the Dodgers top four prospects are not required in any deal. Jeren Kendall and a few other top prospects are likely protected as well from any trade.
Everyone is playing catch up with the Dodgers and with a couple peripheral moves, not ground breaking moves, the Dodgers will be sitting pretty and set to make a deep playoff run. It would be a mistake to lose the farm, while betting on a risky free agent. Remember, the Rangers, Orioles, and A’s need the Dodger’s prospects more than the Dodgers need to acquire their talent. That alone should tell you whether a deal should be done and if so, who and what should be traded. The Dodgers are dealing from a position of strength and have all the leverage. Negotiations 101.
If Andrew Friedman is patient, can we really blame him? People seem to get anxious and make bad decisions when under pressure. The Dodgers farm system alone, with Walker Buehler in Triple A, is far better than most of the options on the market. Alex Verdugo and Willie Calhoun are better prospects than some are Major League Baseball players. Yadier Alvarez, a scout colleague once mentioned, throws harder than most other pitchers do when he is just warming up.
In studying history, the Dodgers will not give up any of their top five prospects in any deal, especially in this year’s market. Again, patience is a virtue.