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Dodgers: The False Narrative of Prospect Hugging

LOS ANGELES, CA -OCTOBER 01: Cody Bellinger #35 of the Los Angeles Dodgers hugs teammate Corey Seager celebrates as the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Colorado Rockies 5-2 to win their sixth consecutive division championship during a National League West tiebreaker Major League Baseball game at Dodger Stadium on Monday, October 1, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/Digital First Media/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)

Since being named as the president of baseball operations for the Dodgers, Andrew Friedman has constantly been labeled as a “prospect hugger” by fans and analysts. That narrative couldn’t be further from the truth.

Friedman has traded prospects often, whether it’s in the off-season or at the trade deadline. When people complain the Dodgers don’t trade prospects, they’re really complaining that the Dodgers didn’t trade Cody Bellinger, Walker Buehler,  Joc Pederson, Corey Seager, or Julio Urias. That list has produced 3 All-Stars, 2 Rookie of the Year winners, 1 two-time Silver Slugger winner, 1 NLCS MVP winner, and likely many more awards in the future.

The Dodgers have traded about 20 prospects who were rated as at least above average at the time of the trade. They’ve kept the ones who’ve become successful, which is 5 of them and maybe a few more currently in the system. What’s the problem with that? There isn’t one.

Some people will make the case that they’ve passed on star players to keep their prospects. That’s partly true and partly wrong. They passed on Cole Hamels and David Price when the cost was Corey Seager and more. They passed on Brian Dozier when the price was Cody Bellinger and Brock Stewart. And they’ve also made trades for the best player available at the trade deadline 3 straight years and they’ve traded notable prospects in the off-season. The idea that they’re prospect huggers is just flat out wrong. They’re willing to trade any prospect who won’t become a very good player. While it is impossible to truly know who will be successful, their track record shows they have a pretty good idea of who will succeed.

So let’s take a look at their most notable prospect trades. The full trades are listed at the end, this will just go over the key players.

Andrew Heaney

In Friedman’s first year with the team, during the 2014-15 off-season, he traded 2B Dee Gordon to the Miami Marlins for MLB Pipeline’s 18th ranked prospect, Andrew Heaney, Austin Barnes, and Enrique Hernandez. They then flipped Heaney to the Anaheim Angels for Howie Kendrick. The Dodgers probably would’ve been better off keeping Heaney and finding a different 2B but the deal hasn’t hurt them. It took Heaney a few seasons to really develop and become a quality major league starter. So one of their first trades, they traded a very good prospect to try and put the best possible team together.

Zach Eflin

Later in that 2014-15 off-season, Friedman traded Matt Kemp for Yasmani Grandal and Zach Eflin. They then traded Zach Eflin to the Phillies in a deal for Jimmy Rollins. Eflin has become a solid starter for the Phillies. This is another trade the Dodgers probably would’ve been better off without but it hasn’t actually hurt the team either.

Hector Olivera

The Dodgers traded Hector Olivera in a deal for Alex Wood, Luis Avilan, Jim Johnson, and Jose Peraza at the 2015 trade deadline. Olivera was one of the Dodgers major international signings as the Cuban infielder signed a 6-year deal. He was on the older side but with no major league experience, he was still a prospect, and one many considered to be the Dodgers’ 2B or 3B of the future.

Darnell Sweeney

The Dodgers traded Darnell Sweeney to the Phillies in an August 2015 deal for Chase Utley. In 2014, Sweeney was ranked as the Dodgers 12th best prospect. He fell out of the top 30 in the 2015 season but he was still a player a lot of fans were high on.

Jose Peraza

The Dodgers traded Jose Peraza and Scott Schebler to the Reds to acquire Frankie Montas and Trayce Thompson in a 3-team deal. This was really a prospect-for-prospect trade but Peraza was the 24th ranked prospect in baseball. Montas was the 54th ranked prospect.

Zach Lee

The Dodgers got ex-zach-lee what they wanted when they traded Zach Lee to the Mariners for Chris Taylor. Lee was one of the Dodgers top-ranked prospects for a few seasons and then basically fell off the radar. A former top prospect for a minor league infielder was considered a disappointing deal at the time, but it really paid off for the Dodgers.

Philip Pfeifer

Philip Pfeifer was the Dodgers 3rd round selection in the 2015 Draft. Some fans were disappointed when they traded him the following season in a deal for Braves’ starter Bud Norris. The trade didn’t work out too well for either team.

Grant Holmes, Frankie Montas, and Jharel Cotton

At the 2016 trade deadline, the Dodgers sent Grant Holmes (Dodgers #4, MLB #82), Frankie Montas (Dodgers #8) and Jharel Cotton (Dodgers#13) to the Oakland A’s for Rich Hill and Josh Reddick. Hill was the best player traded at the trade deadline and the Dodgers paid up to get him. He became a key piece for their rotation while Holmes and Montas faded out of relevancy and in 2018, Cotton suffered an elbow injury that required Tommy John Surgery.

Yordan Alvarez

This is probably the most haunting trade for the Dodgers. In 2016, they traded Yordan Alvarez to the Astros for Josh Fields. At the time, it seemed like a fine deal. Fields was a quality reliever and Alvarez was an unknown prospect. In the 2017 World Series against the Astros, Fields pitched 0.0+ innings, allowed 3 hits, and 2 home runs. Alvarez is now one of the Astros’ top prospects and MLB Pipeline has him as the 42nd best prospect in baseball. Ouch.

Jose De Leon

The Dodgers traded their top pitching prospect, Jose De Leon, to the Rays for Logan Forsythe in the 2016-17 off-season. The deal didn’t really work out for either team as Forsythe struggled in his Dodgers’ career and De Leon underwent Tommy John Surgery for the Rays. De Leon, who is still young, could still make the Rays the winners of this deal.

Willie Calhoun

At the last minute of the 2017 trade deadline, the Dodgers sent top prospect Willie Calhoun to the Rangers for Yu Darvish. You can argue whether this deal was a success or a bust, but Darvish did help the Dodgers reach their first World Series since 1988. Calhoun is still struggling to make the Rangers’ roster. Fans will often criticize this trade when looking back on it, especially to clamor for Justin Verlander. But at the time of the deal, Darvish was undoubtedly the best player traded at the deadline and Verlander looked like he was rapidly declining.

Trevor Oaks

The Dodgers sent their 14th ranked prospect, Trevor Oaks, to the Royals for Scott Alexander. Although Alexander was kind of disappointing, he was still a quality reliever with a few years of team control.

Yusniel Diaz

The Dodgers traded their #3 ranked prospect, Yusniel Diaz, in a deal to acquire Manny Machado from the Orioles. The trade became their 4th consecutive trade deadline blockbuster as Machado was the prize every team wanted. He slotted into the middle of the Dodgers’ lineup the rest of the season and during their postseason run. While Machado didn’t perform like the superstar he is, this was still a blockbuster trade at the time.

Recap

It’s clear the Dodgers have been more than willing to move prospects in the right deal. They traded top prospects at the trade deadline in 4 consecutive seasons; 3 of them were for star players. I think part of the reason people still get mad about holding prospects is because the Dodgers have failed to reach their ultimate goal in every season for the last 31 years.

In 2017, the Dodgers had one of the best teams in recent memory. They went out and added the best player available at the deadline, and then he imploded in 2 World Series games. Darvish wasn’t the only reason they lost but he is the most memorable reason for most fans. In 2018, they added a top 10 player in baseball and he performed like a solid but unspectacular player.

The results for a lot of these moves have been disappointing but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been making them. They’ve been more than willing to move top prospects for impact players, the end results have just been unlucky. If they stick with their formula, it’s going to work out sooner rather than later.

A list of all the notable prospect trades

Dec. 11, 2014: Dodgers trade LHP Andrew Heaney to the Anaheim Angels for 2B Howie Kendrick.

Dec. 18, 2014: Dodgers trade SPs Zach Eflin and Tom Windle to the Philadelphia Phillies for SS Jimmy Rollins.

July 30, 2015: Dodgers trade 2B Hector Olivera, RPs Paco Rodriguez, and Zack Bird to the Atlanta Braves for SP Alex Wood, RP Jim Johnson and Luis Avilan, 2B Jose Peraza, SP Bronson Arroyo, and cash.

Aug. 19, 2015: Dodgers trade 2B Darnell Sweeney and RP John Richey to the Phillies for 2B Chase Utley.

Dec. 16, 2015: Dodgers trade 2B Jose Peraza, OF Scott Schebler, and IF Brandon Dixon in a 3-team deal with the Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds to acquire SP Frankie Montas, OF Trayce Thompson, and IF Micah Johnson.

June 19, 2016: Dodgers trade SP Zach Lee to the Seattle Mariners for SS Chris Taylor.

June 30, 2016: Dodgers trade LHP Philip Pfeifer and RHP Caleb Dirks to the Braves for SP Bud Norris, LF Dian Toscano, and a PTBNL.

Aug. 1, 2016: Dodgers trade RHPs Grant Holmes, Frankie Montas, and Jharel Cotton to the Oakland A’s for SP Rich Hill and RF Josh Reddick.

Aug. 1, 2016: Dodgers trade LF Yordan Alvarez to the Houston Astros for RHP Josh Fields.

Jan. 23, 2017: Dodgers trade SP Jose De Leon to the Tampa Bay Rays for 2B Logan Forsythe.

July 31, 2017: Dodgers trade RHP Angel German and 3B Oneil Cruz to the Pittsburgh Pirates for LHP Tony Watson.

July 31, 2017: Dodgers trade 2B Willie Calhoun, RHP A.J. Alexy, and SS Brendon Davis to the Texas Rangers for SP Yu Darvish.

Jan. 4, 2018: Dodgers trade SS Erick Mejia and RHP Trevor Oaks to the Kansas City Royals for LHP Scott Alexander and RHP Joakim Soria. Dodgers trade RPs Joakim Soria and Luis Avilan plus cash to the White Sox for 2B Jake Peter.

Apr. 1, 2018: Dodgers trade OF Johan Mieses to the St. Louis Cardinals for 2B Breyvic Valera.

July 4, 2018: Dodgers trade RHPs James Marinan and Aneurys Zabala to the Reds for RHPs Dylan Floro and Zach Neal.

July 18, 2018: Dodgers trade OF Yusniel Diaz, 2B Breyvic Valera, 3B Rylan Bannon, and RHPs Dean Kremer and Zach Pop to the Baltimore Orioles for SS Manny Machado.

July 31, 2o18: Dodgers trade 2B Logan Forsythe, OF Luke Raley, and LHP Devin Smeltzer to the Minnesota Twins for 2B Brian Dozier.

one last note

While the front office will make moves they feel will help the ball club win ball games, they may not necessarily open the pocket book to do so.

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Written by Blake Williams

I graduated with an Associate's Degree in Journalism from Los Angeles Pierce College and now I'm working towards my Bachelor's at Cal State University, Northridge. I'm currently the managing editor for the Roundup News and a writer for Dodgers Nation. Around the age of 12, I fell in love with baseball and in high school, I realized my best path to working in baseball was as a writer, so that's the path I followed. I also like to bring an analytics viewpoint to my work and I'm always willing to help someone understand them since so many people have done the same for me. Thanks for reading!

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  1. Great article. Although I usually agree with PaulDodgerFan I do not completely agree this time. The Dodgers have spent resources time and money on the Farm System. They obviously by their actions and also the ratings by other Baseball People have reason to believe they have talent at the Farm Level. Especially as the NL West is mostly rebuilding there is less need to win 100 games to win the Division the smart play is what they appear to be doing…See if Barnes bats like 2017 rather than 2018, a Platoon of Muncy, Kike and Taylor hold down 2nd base, Verdugo, Toles and possibly Beaty and a wild card like Rios or Peters have breakout performances. And some of the guys improve their at bats overall and against certain pitchers. Beaty was added to the 40 man roster and may get a chance to break into the mix as he is another super utility guy that can hit…I also believe we may see Smith, Lux and Ruiz up before the end of the year. Getting some big league time can accelerates a prospects maturation.

    • Tom, I do concur about them having spent resources, time and money on the farm system. But I am basically not on board with an important middle INF position of 2nd base being a full on platoon system. I get that 1 player there does not have to be in all 162 games but having a steady 2nd baseman makes it much easier for him to pair up with his SS. I would think it would be sort of difficult for the SS to see a different player at 2nd base on an almost daily basis. But bottom line for me anyway is that I am not a big fan of platooning all over the diamond at all.

      • Paul I agree with you about the incredible amount of platooning that the Dodgers have utilized the last few years, I am not a fan. It looks to me that they feel that Lux, Smith and Ruiz are coming and they just need to hold the spots open and save their money. We all have to admit they have attempted to fill that second base spot with Forsythe and Dozier and neither have come close to working out and it cost them Farm Kids.
        I do think that Taylor, Kike and I am hoping Muncy fight for the spot with a darkhorse to join the club at some point this year being Beaty as the young man can hit play around the infield and emergency catch if needed. Beaty is a gritty ballplayer I really like what little I have seen of him in the minors.
        The NL West is a very week division this year so the Dodgers have some leeway to experiment bringing up farm guys and not needing to spend minor leaguers or money in beefing up their lineup. I am actually hoping if they cannot get bargain basement short term deals for any of the Free Agents out there they stand pat and see how the young guys pan out.
        In 2020 with Hill and Ryu probably moving on look how young this team will be and cost controlled without any crazy contracts. I may be an optimist but I believe both Verdugo and Toles will play well and prove to be big contributors both offensively and defensively.

  2. Uh kept the 5 who have been successful? Pretty sure you meant two (2) . The other 3 not so much .

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