They didn’t have to do this.
The best team in baseball already boasts the best pitching staff in baseball – the lowest ERA, WHIP and batting average against in the majors. Without any changes, these Dodgers would have gone into the postseason as a championship favorite.
Despite what you might have heard (or read) – or feared in the darkest corner of your thoughts – the Dodgers’ once-in-a-generation domination of the National League this summer is not necessarily a once-in-a-generation opportunity like it might be in another city. In fact, the Dodgers will likely be among the most viable championship contenders again next season and the season after that. And the season after that.
“We’re not in a competitive cycle,” Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi said Monday. “We want to be good every year.”
The Dodgers have been good before, quite frequently actually.
But they haven’t been good enough. Like the Dodger dogs served up to three million customers a year, the World Series drought keeps getting older every year and leaves its own bad taste.
And that’s why they kind of had to do this.
The Dodgers’ comfortable standing atop the National League provided them with a unique perspective at Monday’s non-waiver trade deadline. They were able to look beyond the mundane concerns of other teams scratching and clawing to win their division – or a woebegone wild card – and peer into October. While others traded away bits of the future to patch holes in the present, the Dodgers are strong enough that their additions of right-handed starter Yu Darvish and left-handed relievers Tony Watson and Tony Cingrani are aimed at avoiding the potholes of their recent postseason past.
As successful as their deep group of starters has been during the regular season, a playoff rotation including Brandon McCarthy, Kenta Maeda or Hyun-Jin Ryu would not give them their best chance in October. Without Darvish, the Dodgers would have been justifiably tempted again to ask Clayton Kershaw to attempt another superhero turn. For all his efforts, that hasn’t worked in past postseasons and becomes less tenable with each twinge and tweak of his back.
Kershaw has already begun a throwing program and the initial agita created by his most recent back injury has subsided. But Darvish’s acquisition makes it more likely the Dodgers won’t have to pile the entire franchise on that balky back again this fall.
Zaidi denied the latest iteration of Kershaw’s back issues…