Two weeks ago, the Los Angeles Dodgers pulled off a huge trade, sending their top two prospects in Keibert Ruiz and Josiah Gray to the Washington Nationals in exchange for starter Max Scherzer and infielder Trea Turner.
At the time, the focus was mostly on Scherzer. The Dodgers starting rotation was decimated by injuries and also dealing with the loss of their high-profile offseason signing Trevor Bauer, while he deals with sexual assault allegations.
But while the Dodgers were down men in the starting pitching department, that wasn’t what was losing them games. The bullpen not being able to hold leads and the offense not giving its starters enough run support were more the issue.
The Dodgers did not address the bullpen issue at the trade deadline, per say. They did trade for Danny Duffy, a starter who could become a weapon out of the bullpen. Corey Knebel is also reportedly coming back from the injured list on Tuesday, giving the beleaguered bullpen a bolster.
Duffy will not be joining the team for awhile as he deals with an injury. Monday, the Dodgers placed him and Clayton Kershaw on the 60-day IL. The earliest Kershaw can return is September 5; Duffy, September 15.
Turner also did not join the team right away, as he was in Covid protocol at the time of the trade. But once Turner joined the lineup, the impact was immediate. While he only has two hits in eight at bats so far as a Dodger, his speed on the base paths is what opened the most eyes.
Turner scored from first on what essentially was a single through the shortstop that didn’t get too far into the outfield. He reached on his first at bat as a starter, and scored. He made incredible plays at second base, a spot he has rarely played at in the majors.
Trea’s impact apparently struck the rest of the team. AJ Pollock and Justin Turner executed a double steal after Trea scored from first. It put the Angels’ pitcher on his heels right from the beginning of the ballgame, something the offense has only sporadically been able to do this season.
While T. Turner’s arrival may on paper present as too many position players for too few spots, it’s a happy problem to have. And as fans of the Dodgers have seen, there doesn’t seem to be a day that goes by when another player gets injured.
On Sunday, Justin Turner left the game with a groin issue, and will be down at least a few days while the medical staff wait and evaluate how that heals. Mookie Betts has been dealing with a hip injury for the entirety of the season, and Corey Seager has just returned from being on the IL half the season. Being able to give players adequate rest before the playoffs is never a bad thing.
The Dodgers will have a decision about shortstop to make at the end of the season. Scherzer may only be in LA for 2021 as his contract runs out at the end of this season. But Trea Turner has one more year left on his contract, and Seager is also at the end of his contract.
But in the meantime, the Dodgers can make the most of having all of the All-Stars and various MVPs in their lineup to try to repeat as World Series champions. With Scherzer in the rotation, they will have the option of him or Walker Buehler starting a potential Wild Card game, and the other for Game 1 of the NLDS. Not many teams are in that position to have two aces from which to choose, and to have available for both those important games.
In other roster news, on Monday the Dodgers also claimed catcher Anthony Bemboom off of waivers from the Los Angeles Angels and RHP Conner Greene off waivers from the Baltimore Orioles. The corresponding moves were the placement of Duffy and Kershaw on the 60-day IL.
The Dodgers now embark on an East Coast road trip to see if Trea Turner can continue to spark the offense. The Dodgers will play three-game sets in Philadelphia and New York against the Mets before returning home next Monday.