Undeniably, many media outlets covering the Dodgers have been required to be a bit creative with their material during this time of uncertainty, as most have opted to put numerous types of spins on the very rich, historical heritage the franchise has provided.
On Friday, our old friend Connor Byrne of MLBTR created a very thorough post outlining all the trades President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman has made so far under his tenure as boss. While I certainly enjoyed the quick ride through memory lane, I thought it might be interesting to go one step further and pick out the top handful of deals that were the most beneficial.
Obviously, there are many different variables that determine whether a trade is deemed successful. Perhaps the most important is the overall performance of the player(s) upon the arrival to his new club. Second, there’s the value of the trade based on the salaries for all those involved, coupled with the length of the contracts alongside the years of control. Third, sometimes success can be seen in how much room is cleared under a team’s annual budget. Additionally, the evaluation of a deal is often based on the production of the player(s) lost, as we’ve seen in the case of the Josh Fields for Yordan Alvarez trade back in 2015.
As we’ve collaborated with Connor in the past, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind if we expanded a bit upon his fine work to put together a list of Friedman’s four most productive trades.
No. 4—Russell Martin (2018-19 Offseason)
At first glance, when the Dodgers brought back catcher Russell Martin from the Blue Jays, there was a ton of scrutiny because of his $20 million salary. However, once all the smoke cleared on the cash considerations, Toronto ended up paying a good portion of the veteran’s yearly paycheck. Although Martin slashed just .220/.337/.330 over 83 games last season, the value of his leadership in the clubhouse was priceless. In the package back to the Blue Jays, the Dodgers sent Ronny Brito and Andrew Sopko, who, at the time, were both considered to be marginal minor leaguers at best.
No. 3—David Freese (2018 Trade Deadline)
In another move that seemed to be aimed at landing a strong, veteran clubhouse presence, the Dodgers scored a huge bonus when they acquired corner infielder David Freese from the Pirates in exchange for minor league infielder Jesus Valdez. Of course, because Freese was at the tail end of his contract and Pittsburgh had no plans on bringing him back, the Pirates had nothing to lose. Still, Freese was fantastic for the Dodgers during his time wearing Blue, especially in his roles off the bench.
“The ability to be that presence in the clubhouse, have the pedigree that he has, is huge,” third baseman Justin Turner said upon Freese’s contract renewal in 2019. “The long list of experiences and success is just a value you want to have around. He’s a winner. You talk about culture in the clubhouse and creating a winning culture, that’s the guy you want to be here to help establish that.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
No.2—Chase Utley (2015 Waiver Trade)
During a time when there was a ton of uncertainty at second base, the Dodgers were able to steal away veteran Chase Utley from the Phillies in exchange for utility man Darnell Sweeney and righty pitcher John Richy two weeks past the non-waiver deadline. In 2016—his first full year with the Dodgers—Utley played 138 games, slashing .252/.319/.396 with 26 doubles, 14 long balls and 52 RBI. In spite of those numbers, Utley, at the time, was undoubtedly one of the most respected team leaders in the dugout. During the 2016-17 offseason, the team brought the UCLA alum back on a two-year, team-friendly deal.
Currently, Utley is serving as a special assistant to the Dodgers’ organization.
No. 1—Chris Taylor (2016 Season)
Although it seemed to be a mere deal between two mediocre fringe players when it initially went down, the Chris Taylor for Zach Lee trade will always be remembered as one of Friedman’s signature moves.
As a Dodger, Taylor has hit .266/.337/.463 with 51 homers, 100 doubles, 19 triples and 194 RBI in 453 games over four seasons.
After departing Los Angeles, Lee made just three appearances at the big league level. In his age 27 season last year, he made 24 appearances between the Double-A and Triple-A levels on the Mets’ farm.
Being that righty Josiah Gray has elevated into the organization’s list of Top 5 prospects, the blockbuster that saw Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Alex Wood and Kyle Farmer moved to Cincinnati might end up being very productive, especially when considering the amount of excess salary that was dumped.
It still remains to be seen how productive the trades Friedman made during the 2019-20 offseason will be, especially since there’s still a possibility that Mookie Betts might never play a single game in a Los Angeles uniform.
Nevertheless, one can’t help but think that Brusdar Graterol will conceivably be a huge part of the Dodgers’ bullpen in the years to come. To think that Los Angeles landed the big reliever along with Luke Raley and a draft pick in exchange for Kenta Maeda and a very low level catcher, makes one believe that the Dodgers definitely came out as the winners.