Thirty-five trades were completed over eight days leading into Monday’s non-waiver trade deadline. Eighty-seven players were involved, not including those who will be named later. Pitcher Jaime Garcia was traded twice. It was easy to get lost in the shuffle.
If regular-season wins and losses mean anything, the shuffle might not matter. Three teams – the Dodgers, Houston Astros and Washington Nationals – lead their respective divisions by 14 games or more. Every other first-place team leads its division by less than three games. The landscape baseball fans awoke to Tuesday was just as lopsided as it was on Monday.
For a league that hasn’t produced back-to-back champions since 1999-2000, it’s an unusually large gap between the haves and have-nots. The website fivethirtyeight.com uses an algorithm to generate odds for every regular-season game. The Dodgers and Astros are favored to win all their remaining games. Half of the division races are over, the favorites established, and not because of any trades that were made Monday.
The Dodgers’ deal for four-time All-Star pitcher Yu Darvish was dramatic, maybe the closest thing in baseball to a summer blockbuster. It became official at 12:53 p.m. Pacific Time – seven minutes before the deadline and three minutes after Darvish tweeted a selfie from his locker in the Rangers’ clubhouse. Texas once paid a record $51.7 million merely to negotiate with Darvish; the Dodgers got him for three prospects and a few phone calls.
The unifying point of praise among rival scouts and executives, regardless of their opinion of Darvish, was this: the Dodgers didn’t give up much. Gone are Willie Calhoun, A.J. Alexy and Brendon Davis. But most of the Dodgers’ high-ceiling talents remain: pitchers Walker Buehler, Yadier Alvarez, Mitch White, Dennis Santana, and outfielder Alex Verdugo. Some of these prospects have a chance to make an impact this year, others next year, others in 2019.
This year, the Dodgers did not need Darvish to enter the postseason as massive favorites. The team with baseball’s highest payroll went 20-3 in July and hasn’t lost since Clayton Kershaw went on the disabled list more than a week ago. Getting Darvish without sacrificing the top prospects in the system was a case of baseball’s 1 percent getting improbably richer.
Besides a massive advantage in the standings, the Dodgers, Astros and Nationals have something else in common. With a couple exceptions, their most important roles…