Up until yesterday, there really hasn’t been much chatter linking the Dodgers to any prospective blockbuster trades with rival clubs anytime soon. Sure, there have been a few whispers about a bullpen upgrade or two, but for the most part, the juicy, eye-opening rumors have been non-existent. However, after Bob Nightengale of the USA Today published a story stating that the Dodgers are the favorites to land Baltimore shortstop Manny Machado, quite the stir began to circulate among Los Angeles fans everywhere.
While it would certainly be nice to acquire Machado for the right price, there may be other roster needs that management sees as higher priorities. Personally, I think the bullpen needs some work before it can be considered playoff worthy, and in the same breath, while I believe the current crew of starting pitchers is good enough to cruise to the postseason, it may not be effective enough to secure a World Championship. Ultimately, I feel the offense is good enough to succeed without Machado, and if the Dodgers are willing to sacrifice several of the organization’s top prospects to upgrade the roster, it might as well be on the pitching front.
The Mets have openly stated that they’re willing to consider dealing Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard; however, previous assumptions revealed that New York would likely begin their conversation by asking for young righty Walker Buehler, who may very well be untouchable in the eyes of the Los Angeles front office. But, while there may indeed be a handful of top prospects who are expendable—most specifically a small group of outfielders—I think it’s important to note that there is a huge difference between expendability and value. Just because the Dodgers are very deep at one particular position doesn’t mean they’ll ship an outfielder out for a mediocre reliever—the management team will certainly make sure the return on a prospective deal conceivably exceeds the price it pays.
Then there’s the issue of remaining under the luxury tax threshold, which could limit the team’s pursuit of a player with a high-end contract. There’s always the chance the Dodgers could deal away somebody to create the money needed to absorb a higher salary, but generally, the teams who are looking to deal are attempting to shrink their own payrolls, not increase them. At the end of the day, should the Dodgers falls short of another World Championship, 2018 could forever be remember as the year the team finally avoided the luxury tax and reset its payroll structure.
In previous seasons, the Dodgers had somewhat of a surplus of starting pitchers to deal, but with the exodus of guys like Trevor Oaks, Chase De Jong, Frankie Montas and Jharel Cotton, there isn’t much excess, especially when considering a few of the farmhands they’ve used in the bigs this year. And while it’s very easy for the average fan to create a hypothetical package which will land somebody like deGrom or Machado, it’s important to remember that rival clubs are likely to begin their negotiations with names like Buehler or Bellinger—and not players like Verdugo or Ruiz.
Last year, we saw a few very thrifty deals which brought in Yu Darvish, Tony Watson and Tony Cingrani. And most importantly, those deals didn’t break the back of an otherwise plentiful farm system. Regardless, as good as those trades were on paper, they really didn’t give the Dodgers enough firepower to seal the deal in the World Series.
In the end, whether Los Angeles is indeed the favorite to land Machado or not, one thing’s for certain—there certainly will be some kind of upgrade(s) made before the summer trade deadlines pass. And whether it’s the acquisition of a slugger capable of hitting 35-plus long balls per season or a Cy Young caliber pitcher, it may be the difference between the club being viewed as an offensive “wrecking ball” or a squad that’s considered a well-balanced, functioning machine.