The non-waiver Trade Deadline has come and gone. Although the Los Angeles Dodgers have the best record in baseball, they were active at the Deadline trying to improve their pitching staff. For three Minor League prospects, the Dodgers obtained Yu Darvish from the Texas Rangers. They also acquired a pair of left-handed relievers from the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cincinnati Reds. These pitchers should help the Dodgers go to the World Series for the first time since 1988.
These trades break from tradition for Dodgers president Andrew Friedman and general manager Farhan Zaidi, both of whom dislike giving up promising prospects for short-term solutions. However, they must think these Dodgers are destined for greatness.
It is difficult to argue with their apparent assessment of the team, since the Dodgers continue to amaze everyone. Regardless of how big a deficit they need to overcome in the late innings, they find a way to win the game. On Sunday against the San Francisco Giants, their rookie third-string catcher James Farmer's first Major League hit enabled the Dodgers to have a walk-off win in the 11th inning. The Dodgers lead baseball in come-from-behind victories, a symbol of a team capable of winning a World Series championship.
For the entire season, other than Clayton Kershaw and Alex Wood, the Dodgers' starting rotation has been inconsistent. Until recently, Rich Hill hasn't performed the way that the Dodgers envisioned when they signed him to a three-year contract. Dealing with blister problems early in the season caused him to change his mechanics. Hill's mechanical flaws made his control worse and caused him to hang many curveballs, so his performance and confidence suffered. Lately, he has performed as he did when the Dodgers obtained him last season.
Brandon McCarthy has been good at times during this season as he finishes his comeback from Tommy John surgery. However, at other times, he has struggled with his control as he has dealt with knee tendinitis.
Both Kenta Maeda and Hyun-Jin Ryu have been brilliant at times while they have been put in the Dodgers' bullpen for their ineffectiveness. If they throw the ball within the strike zone aggressively, they are superb, but when they begin nibbling at the strike zone, they struggle, putting stress on the bullpen.
The Dodgers don't know when Kershaw can return to the rotation from a strained muscle in his lower back. The injury occurred during his July 23 start against the Atlanta Braves. Although the Dodgers haven't publicized a timetable for his return, most estimates have him missing four to six weeks. If Kershaw returns in late August or early September, will he have enough time to build up his endurance before the playoffs begin? Historically, Kershaw hasn't done well during the playoffs. Most baseball-knowledgeable people think Kershaw has been worn out during the regular season. To prevent this, the Dodgers wanted to obtain another quality starter.
At 30, Darvish, who pitched in Japan before joining the Rangers, has been considered one of the most dominating Major League starters for the past four years. This season, he hasn't been as good as he was in the past, but he should be an asset to the Dodgers' rotation.
During his career, Darvish has struck out hitters at a historic rate. If he can rediscover that dominance, he should be able to contribute to the Dodgers as they chase their elusive goal of winning a World Series championship.
Assuming they advance to the National League Championship Series, the Dodgers probably will face either the Washington Nationals or the Chicago Cubs. They wanted a left-handed reliever who can dominate against the powerful lefty hitters. Luis Avilan, a left-hander, has been a mainstay of the Dodgers' bullpen, but he doesn't mow down those powerful left-handed hitters. Grant Dayton, who was a salvation for the Dodgers during the 2016 postseason, hasn't been effective this season as he deals with a recurring neck injury. The Dodgers hope the newly acquired Tony Watson, a former closer, and Tony Cingrani can mow down powerful left-handers.