The Los Angeles Dodgers have been to the World Series the last two years. They have the best record in baseball. Fans of the boys in blue should be sitting on Cloud Nine. The view is pretty nice, but looking down, one can't help but notice potential problems.
It was naturally assumed by almost everyone who follows the team, plays for the team, or runs the team, that the Dodgers would make a deal for a reliever or two, or maybe six. Other than a not-as-good-as-years-past Kenley Jansen and a much-improved-but-still-makes-you-nervous-when-he-comes-in Pedro Baez, there's not much else to bank on when the best rotation in baseball is ready to come out of the game after six innings (don't get me started).
The Dodgers actually did make two deals on Deadline Day, which was Wednesday, and it did include one reliever, even though ESPN didn't even consider it worthy enough to report during their midday special edition of Baseball Tonight. They picked up a lefty named Adam Kolarek from Tampa Bay, but mix him in with the likes of Yimi Garcia, Casey Sadler, Caleb Ferguson, and J.T. Chargois, Julio Urias is a miscast starter used in relief, and Joe Kelly is likely at any moment to give up a three-run homer, whether there's anybody on base or not.
The blockbuster was expected. Likely lefty Felipe Vazquez from Pittsburgh, who is not a free agent at the end of the year, and would command a high price. Reports said the Pirates were insisting on top prospect Gavin Lux, who figures to be the second baseman of the future—possibly as early as next year. In the past, the Dodgers refused to give up highly regarded minor leaguers like Joc Pederson, Corey Seager, Julio Urias, and Cody Bellinger, and Lux reportedly fits into that category. You can see the logic, but despite those players, the Dodgers still haven't won a World Series since 1988. Maybe giving up one high prospect would put them over the top?
When interviewed during Thursday's game against San Diego, GM Andrew Friedman said they're priority was a top reliever. While not mentioning any names, he was referring to Vazquez, Detroit's Shane Greene (who ended up going to Atlanta), or Edwin Diaz of the Mets (who didn't go anywhere, but has been horrible lately). Friedman wasn't asked about Lux, or whether there were any other offers on the table, but other reports indicated that the Pirates might part with Vazquez for pitching prospect Dustin May, and switch-hitting minor league catcher Kiebert Ruiz. May made his major league debut Friday and did okay. Will Smith has come up and made an impact behind the plate, making Ruiz more expendable.
The old saying is you have to give something to get something, and the Dodgers were unwilling to do it. Perhaps the proverbial shot in the arm is overrated, but what kind of message does it send to the players when no significant move is made? ESPN's Mark Teixeira said it best. “When you have a team that feels like we can win it all, and the front office says yes, I believe you can win it all. Here's one more piece. It's great momentum going into the last two months of the season,” he said.
The Dodgers did make one otther deal, and on the surface it seemed stupid. They acquired injured infielder Jedd Gyorko from St. Louis for injured pitcher Tony Cingrani. Gyorko could be back soon, and be a right-handed bat off the bench. Since there's no August trade deadline anymore, the deal is seen as sort of a preventative measure.
It's been almost a week and there have been some early bumps, but look at teams that the Dodgers could face in the playoffs. Atlanta added three relievers (Mark Melancon, Chris Martin, and Greene), Washington got three relievers (Daniel Hudson, Roenis Elias, and Hunter Strickland), Philadelphia added a starter, and the surging New York Mets kept Diaz. The mic drop came from the Houston Astros, though, when they got Zack Greinke from Arizona.
Fans will certainly keep an eye on Lux, but if the reports are true that relief could have come in exchange for May and Ruiz, 2019 could be the next 'year that got away' for the Dodgers. Despite having the best record in baseball, the Dodgers lost Deadline Day, and it could mean losing, or not getting to, another World Series.
Trade bait: ESPN's two-and-a-half hour special featured good reporting but weird television. There were frequent shots of Jeff Passan and Buster Olney looking at their phones while they were supposed to be talking on set. They also did a poor job of repeating trades that already happened. If you tuned in late, you had to wait quite awhile to find out Cleveland traded Trevor Bauer to Cincinnati, and got Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes. Until the Greinke deal, which wasn't announced until after the deadline, Bauer, Puig, and Reyes were the deal of the day... The Giants had an interesting trade day. They held on to Madison Bumgarner and closer Will Smith, but dealt Melancon, and fellow relievers Sam Dyson and Drew Pomeranz. A bit of a mixed message there.
It's outta here!: More ridiculousness when it comes to home runs. The major leagues are on pace to have more than a thousand homers hit this year than last year. As of mid week, the pace was 6712. There were 5585 hit last year, which was actually a drop from 2017, when the ball went over the fence 6105 times.
National exposure: The Oakland A's were on ESPN tonight, which for some reason is something that doesn't happen very often. Even on their wild card run last year, they received little attention. The A's were at Wrigley Field, and lost to the Chicago Cubs 5-4. Dave Flemming, David Ross, and Tim Kurkjian had the call.
He said it?: Speaking of the A's, radio broadcasters Ken Korach and Vince Cotroneo were having a discussion about the relevance of statistics this week when one of them used a quote and attributed it to Vin Scully. “Statistics are like bikinis. They reveal a lot, but not everything.” I don't remember him saying it, but it's a great line.
I recorded or read about most of the trade deadline stuff this week because I drove to Vancouver, Washington to attend the celebration of life for Kelly Keigwin. Kelly was very non-traditional, and so was her memorial. They rented out the downtown movie theater Wednesday night, and showed the movie 'Deadpool'--one of Kelly's favorites. Before the screening, though, there were some moving tributes about Kelly—many from whom said that, because of their life circumstances, had no place to turn when Kelly helped them out. It was both gut wrenching and heartening at the same time.. While it was a long drive for a very short stay, I got to experience part of her life that I hadn't known before, and that made it all worth it.