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Dodgers: Trades Can Potentially Impact Clubhouse Chemistry

How chemistry can be impacted by clubhouse changes late in a season.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 08: Alex Verdugo #27 of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates his RBI single to take a 7-4 lead over the Atlanta Braves during the seventh inning at Dodger Stadium on May 08, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

With the Trade Deadline a little more than a month away, the question of team chemistry comes up. Our own Clint Pasillas asked the question, “does making a trade risk messing with the chemistry of this team?” The answer to that question is the same as many relationships, “it’s complicated.” We’ll take a look at some of the characteristics of the Dodgers’ clubhouse, some history and the type of player the Dodgers value.

Dodgers’ Team Chemistry

The Dodgers are winning and winning teams usually have good chemistry. Why do they have good chemistry? They are winning. That’s the easy answer and there is plenty of truth to it. The clubhouse did have a test with the arrest of Julio Urías and the team didn’t skip a beat. There will be more tests as the team will hit some type of rough patch, playing time issues and players coming or going via trade or release.

The team is a combination of older veterans, highly paid players, minimum wage guys and rookies. It seems they all seem to get along with each others and nothing bad has come out. There could be issues that we won’t hear about but all indications are that this is a good clubhouse.

Reasons Why This Group Fits

The number one reason, I believe, that the chemistry works is the management of the Dodgers, from the Front Office on down, has introduced a mentality that reaches from the lowest levels of the Farm System to the Major Leagues. I’ve seen the quality of coaches with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes and everyone is on the same page. Things like versatility, player rotations, grinding out at-bats and many other characteristics of the Dodgers at the MLB level are at all levels. The Dodgers have spent years gathering players that are “grinders” and are willing to buy in. Sometimes, there has been addition by subtraction to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Some might say that management and the team grew tired of Yasiel Puig but they put up with the antics of Kiké Hernandez and Alex Verdugo. The huge difference is that Hernandez and Verdugo work extremely hard on and off the field. Nobody works harder than those two on their craft. It’s well documented that Puig didn’t.

History Considered

Cespedes for Lester

The A’s traded Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox for Jon Lester while leading the American League West. They were trying to go all in and win a World Series title for the first time since 1989 and it backfired.

“After posting baseball’s best record in the first half, the A’s plummeted in the second half. They closed out their final 43 games by going 15-28. They nearly missed the playoffs, but secured the second Wild Card spot thanks to Sonny Gray’s efforts in the final game of the season.” – WhiteCleatBeat.com

Ellis for Ruiz

One of the most controversial trades in recent Dodgers history was A.J. Ellis for Carlos Ruiz. Ellis was a team leader but his production had gone down drastically. Getting Ruiz in return, he was another team leader type who ended up fitting in well and even getting the lead RBI in the 2016 NLDS series deciding game 5. Other than a couple of the first games it doesn’t seem that losing Ellis hurt the team chemistry. I doubt Ellis makes a difference in the NLCS against the Cubs.

Lo Duca for Penny

At the 2004 Trade Deadline the Dodgers made some major moves that sent out team leader Paul Lo Duca, Juan Encarnacion, Guillermo Mota and Dave Roberts and brought back Brad Penny, Hee-Seop Choi and Steve Finley. I still remember the shock I felt with that trade as I felt it would wreck the team. Fortunately, it didn’t seem it hurt them on the field as they continued to play well and make the playoffs.

Machado

When the Dodgers acquired Manny Machado after the 2018 All-Star Break, it was understood that he was there as a rental shortstop. Soon after, Justin Turner got hurt and Machado was asked to play third, and there wasn’t an issue. Playing on a winning team probably helped that as Manny now had a purpose of more than just his impending free agency. That goes back to how winning is important to team chemistry. Even with all the “Johnny Hustle” issues I never heard of any teammates being bothered with it. Again, Machado does the work to maximize his talent.

Guerrero for Tudor

In the middle of August of the 1988 season the Dodgers traded a key player, Pedro Guerrero for starting pitcher John Tudor. Guerrero had been a rock for the Dodgers since 1981 but it worked out well as the Dodgers won it all in 1988. The team had a major need for another starting pitcher and they did what needed to be done. There was some risk but it worked out.

Possible Trades

I believe that the Dodgers will make some trades by the Trade Deadline on July 31. Every year that Andrew Friedman has been in charge of baseball operations they’ve made a big trade around the deadline. In 2015 it was Alex Wood, 2016 it was Rich Hill and Josh Reddick, 2017 it was Yu Darvish and in 2018 it was Manny Machado.

If the Dodgers do get an impact player how would that person fit? What if that person was Madison Bumgarner? Given all the things that have happened over the last two weeks would he be welcome? What about Trevor Bauer? Our own AJ Gonzalez had some excellent reasons that the Dodgers should not get Bauer and the clubhouse was one of the reasons. If either of these players are acquired then things could get quite interesting.

They will probably do some small trades for a reliever (they always do) and will be looking to trade for an “impact player.” One area they’ve hinted at is making sure the offense doesn’t struggle in the post-season (especially the World Series) like it has the last two seasons. Acquiring an impact bat will affect players currently on the team; either as someone who is traded, sent to the minors or will lose at bats. The Dodgers have done a lot to get a clubhouse that is gritty, unselfish and serious about the task at hand.

Final Thoughts

I don’t believe the Dodgers will make any moves that would intentionally jeopardize the team chemistry.The biggest problem I see is a new acquisition taking repetitions away from an existing position player or pitcher. At the end of the day, this is a career for each of the players and someone could be impacted in their future earnings. So many are playing for a contract next season and some are playing to just stay in the Major Leagues where the pay is much higher than the Minor Leagues.

There is always risk in making trades, including team chemistry. The history we covered earlier shows that there can be zero to huge impacts to how a team plays. Is that chemistry? We really don’t know the “cause and effect” of team chemistry. The bottom line, this 2019 Dodgers team will be known as having great chemistry if they win the 2019 World Series.

Written by Tim Rogers

A fan of the Dodgers since 1973 since I got my first baseball cards while living in Long Beach. I came to San Diego for college and never left nor did I ever switch my Dodgers' allegiance. Some know me as the "sweater guy". #ProspectHugger

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  1. Let the team made of men grind out a W in the WS this year. Nobody else needed. This team would have done it last year but management screwed it up!

  2. Add relievers and possibly one starter. There’s no room for hitters on this team don’t screw up the way the team functions. The offense will be fine even if they go through a slump. Stick to the weaknesses and don’t try to get cute

  3. Assuming both Cory Seager and David Freeze come back and stay healthy, we don’t need to add to the offense. I would insert rookie Will Smith as regular catcher and perhaps package Barnes and a mid project for relief help. I think the team defense would be better by moving Belanger back to 1B when Pollock returns and play an OF of Pederson/Taylor/Hernandez in LF, Pollock in CF and Verdugo in RF. Joc might do OK at 1B eventually, but playing him there while learning the position, especially during playoffs is not advisable, when someone like Bellinger is available.

  4. A most interesting article, Tim. Lets face it, when you are leading your competitors by a sizable margin as we are, everyone on the team is happy, except the one or two percent who want more playing time and that is important. You do not want players who are docile…..you need that competitive edge. You also have “to dance with the guy who brought you”. The Dodgers should not change anything, other than add a quality relief pitcher and maybe a right-handed bat. If I am to do this, I try to use minor league players – and not the best ones. Retain your core nucleus; they got you there. And do your due diligence to make sure you are bringing in good clubhouse people who make the “Dodger brew” even more potent. Go Blue!!!

    • Well said, LOU! Some BP help is mandatory if Dodgers expect to play deep into the PS and WS. We saw an example of why last night with Floro’s implosion. And truth is told here for an impact RH bat perhaps, as Dodgers feel they need to do better offensively in the WS should they get there instead of what happened in the previous 2 WS.

  5. I often heard the Yankee teams the beat our boys in World Series those many years ago were fighting all the time in club house. Is that true?

  6. PS. Boy do I miss the LA Herald Examiner sports page. Talk about Hall of Famers. Mallamude Murrey and the boys. Oh My.

  7. Right now the way the roster is constituted we have no chance against the Yankees or Astros if were lucky enough to make it that far. Acquire Wheeler from the Mets,who is a free agent at the end of the year and will cost less than acquiring Vasquez ,Smith, or Hand. Make Urias the left hander reliever leading up to Baez and Jansen. This team is is built for the season right now,not the playoffs and World Series. Kershaw will get killed by the Yankee powerful right hand bats.The rotation in the playoffs should be Buehler ,Ryu,Wheeler and Kershaw. Can’t count on Hill coming back healthy and move Maeda to the bullpen or trade him or Striping in a Wheeler deal. Much more cost efficient.Mr. Friedman,don’t let us down.

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