“Don’t be expecting a deal involving the Dodgers as the deadline approaches.”
I wrote that on July 14th. Never have I been more wrong.
A lot can happen in a fortnight, especially the two weeks leading up to the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline. Possible playoff teams like the Minnesota Twins can lose games and decide to build for the future, struggling teams can win games and emerge as buyers and potential contenders, or a team could lose its ace for four to six weeks, and have to make a major change.
Kershaw’s injury caused doubt
Heading into the All-Star break, the Dodgers were on pace to win 108 and looked set to cruise to another NL West Division title. On July 23rd, Clayton Kershaw, who led all major league starters with a 2.04 ERA, left a game after just 2.0 innings pitched due to lower back tightness. It’s an issue which he has suffered with extensively in the past, including missing most of last season.
According to multiple news reports at the time, the likely diagnosis had him sidelined for at least a month. It looked as though the Dodgers would have to go without the ace of their starting rotation for a significant amount of time, and that he might not return until early September.
Questions about Kershaw’s health were on everyone’s mind as the deadline approached. As the old adage goes, ‘Pitching wins championships’, and the Dodgers know they face a much tougher road to a World Series crown without trotting out the best pitcher in baseball every five days.
Enter the Texas Rangers
The Texas Rangers announced last week they were looking to trade their ace, Yu Darvish, before Monday’s 4pm EST trade deadline. The Rangers’ season is practically over already, sitting four games under .500 and 18 games back of the Astros for the division.
Darvish, who is a free agent at the end of the season, is a proven top-of-the-rotation arm and is having a solid season in his first full year back after Tommy John surgery in 2015. His 4.01 ERA over 22 starts may be the worst of his Major League career, but he boasts a career ERA of 3.27.
The Dodgers were willing to give up a good package for Darvish (including number 4 prospect, infielder Willie Calhoun) if it meant getting them that much closer to lifting the World Series trophy for the first time since 1988. Their rotation is full of strong pitching that has been unhealthy all season. Every Dodgers starter has had a DL stint this season, but when healthy, the Dodgers could piece together a dangerous rotation even before the Darvish deal.
Without Darvish, a healthy playoff rotation for the Dodgers would include Kershaw, Alex Wood, who would be a top-3 ERA leader in the National League if he had the innings to qualify, and a mix of veterans in right-handers Brandon McCarthy and Kenta Maeda, and southpaws Hyun-jin Ryu and Rich Hill.
Already a dangerous combination when you consider most teams go to a four-man rotation in the postseason, with Yu Darvish in the mix, the Dodgers now boast a starting pitching staff to rival any in baseball. They will now be able to face opponents with the all-time strikeout rate leader in Darvish; the best pitcher in baseball in Kershaw, a crafty veteran lefty in Rich Hill who was the top pitcher dealt at the 2016 deadline, and could fill the fourth slot with any of the three other strong pitchers, all of whom are having strong years.
The right move at the right time
Is there a way the Dodgers could have made themselves more deadly at the trading deadline than by making this move? It’s unlikely. They added a number 1 starter to a team that is already on pace to set the major league record for wins in a season and did so without losing any of their top three prospects. It is the best possible move the club could have made to make themselves even more dangerous come October.
Before the All-Star break, I wrote “It would seem that at this point in the season, nothing can stop the Dodgers from rolling over the competition on their way to a playoff berth”, but this is baseball, and the baseball gods like to make a mockery of our predictions. No sooner do I write that then Kershaw goes down. It would seem the baseball gods were frowning on Los Angeles, and that the Dodgers front office didn’t care either way.
The way baseball works, you can never guarantee a thing, but the Dodgers are doing everything they can to build a perfect team and assuming they have a healthy Kershaw, they look like an unstoppable force.
Want to share your opinion? Why not write for us?