Welcome to winter, but finally one when Dodger fans are not discontent. While it was an abnormal summer, it brought some baseball, which led to the Dodgers finally winning that long awaited World Championship.
My friend Tim (@SDDodger on Twitter) posted Monday morning that today, 12/21/20, is the two-year anniversary of the Dodgers’ big trade with the Cincinnati Reds—that as he puts it, really got things going.
Dodger fans know that the team had just come off of its second straight failed World Series run. Los Angeles lost to the Boston Red Sox four games to one, leaving fans wondering what it would take to actually get the team a ring.
As always, President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman was working several steps ahead, even as Dodger fans called for his head.
With little warning, the team announced that they had traded OF Yasiel Puig, OF Matt Kemp, C/IF Kyle Farmer, LHP Alex Wood, and cash considerations to the Reds in exchange for minor leaguers Jeter Downs and Josiah Gray, along with RHP Homer Bailey.
Puig and Kemp were huge fan favorites. Kemp had a monster first half of the season in his return to Los Angeles, making the All-Star team. His production, however, diminished as the season went on. Puig had provided electric content for his six seasons in a Dodger uniform, and his last impression on Dodger fans was an incredible World Series home run that gave Dodger fans hope of tying up the series at 2-2. Alas, the Dodgers bullpen squandered the lead again and Boston went on to win the series handily.
Farmer was a catcher/infielder on a team loaded with catching prospects and utility men. Wood, after making the All-Star team in 2017, regressed to his mean in 2018, going 9-7 with a 3.68 ERA.
Bailey was released after the trade was completed. The Dodgers took on his $23MM salary as a condition of buying the Reds’ prospects. Both Downs and Gray were highly ranked prospects and immediately made the already good Dodgers farm system that much better.
Dodger fans were hoping that this trade meant that the Dodgers would sign one of that off-season’s big names, any one of Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto or Corey Kluber. The Dodgers, of course, signed none of these players. Nor did they manage to sign any of the big names in the 2019-2020 off-season. They also did not make any big trades either year using their farm system.
That is, until they made a trade with the very Boston Red Sox who had beaten them in the 2018 World Series. The key prospect in the trade that brought Mookie Betts and David Price to Los Angeles was one Jeter Downs, along with OF Alex Verdugo and fellow minor leaguer C Colton Wong.
As we all know, Betts was an integral part of the Dodgers winning the World Series in 2020. And, Friedman also got Betts to agree to be a Dodger for the next 12 years, finally signing that big free agent to a huge contract. Price has yet to pitch in Dodger Blue in a regular season game, but the Mookie contract makes it all worth it even if he never does. (For his part, Price does plan on pitching in 2021 as long as Covid health concerns have been remedied).
On Monday, MILB.com published a piece on Gray, and his rise through the Dodgers farm system. He was the Dodgers’ Branch Rickey Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2019, going 11-2 with a 2.28 ERA with 147 strikeouts, 31 walks and only allowing four home runs in 130 innings combined while moving up through three minor league placements. If he continues to do so well, he could be up with the big team sooner than later.
Wood returned to the Dodgers in 2020 and helped pitch in relief and finally got his ring. Kemp has played with the Reds and Colorado Rockies since the trade. Farmer is still with the Reds.
Puig played with the Reds in 2019 and was traded to the Cleveland Indians mid-season. He did not play at all in the 2020 season.
While it was torturous to sit through at the time, watching favorite players go elsewhere, trades and free agent signings not happening and the Dodgers exiting the playoffs again early in 2019, it all was worth it in the end. The Dodgers got their marquee player in Betts, a World Series ring, and a farm system that is still loaded to help the team in the future.
Happy contented winter to Dodger fans one and all.