Sometimes, a single acquisition offers a window into an organization. Not just its priorities, but how it evaluates talent, allocates resources and stacks depth at some areas, but not others. This is the lifeblood of the debate baseball fans embrace.
In these League Championship Series, the four organizations -- Astros, Red Sox, Dodgers and Brewers -- are far more alike than different. Yet the most important decisions that have gotten the four teams to this point offer insight into their business strategy.
Let's review one important decision made by each club:
Astros: Reliever Thomas Pressly
Acquired from Twins, July 27
28 games, including postseason, 0.70 ERA, .126 BA, 0.58 WHIP, 12.3 K/9
Pressly, 29, is the prototype of what Astros president of baseball operations Jeff Luhnow and his staff seek in pitching: high velocity, high spin-rate, high strikeout potential. Just as the Astros have done with other pitching acquistions, including Gerrit Cole, they've adjusted Pressly's pitching usage, urging more power curve, fewer fastballs. He's also throwing his slider and curve more when behind in the count.
Pressly and new closer Roberto Osuna have helped remake the Astros bullpen from one that performed poorly in last year's postseason to one that has been the best in baseball by a wide margin since the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Brewers: Outfielder Christian Yelich
Acquired from Marlins, Jan. 25
.326 BA, 1.000 OPS, 36 HR, 34 2B, 22 SB in regular season
Brewers general manager David Stearns, who was Luhnow's top assistant with the Astros, joined the Brewers in 2015 and began building a formidable farm system, even if that meant passing up some short-term upgrades. Stearns stayed the course in '17 when the Brewers improved by 13 wins, to 86, and were in the thick of the NL race until the end.
But in the offseason, Stearns dug deep into his system, trading four prospects to get Yelich. In the young star, he saw a 26-year-old cornerstone-type player signed to a team-friendly contract through 2022. On the same day that he got Yelich, Stearns also signed center fielder Lorenzo Cain to create baseball's best outfield. In allocating his resources to the outfield, he believed he had enough young pitching to sustain a playoff run.
Red Sox: Outfielder J.D. Martinez
Signed as free agent, Feb. 26 for $109.5 million over five years
.330 BA, 43 HR, 37 2B, 1.031 OPS in regular season
Money didn't seem to be much of an issue in this signing, and that in itself offers a glimpse into how the Red Sox do business. Their $233.8 million payroll was baseball's largest, and for that, the Red Sox make no apologies. Nor should they. Plenty of teams have spent big and gotten nothing for it. This season, five of the top 10 payroll teams did not make the postseason.
After four years of failing to make the ALCS, the Red Sox were in a go-for-it mode. To give a 31-year-old outfielder a five-year deal carries risks, but he was everything they hoped he'd be in 2018 and has helped get them within four wins of their first World Series in five years.
Dodgers: Infielder Manny Machado
Acquired from Orioles, July 18
70 games, including postseason, 15 HR, 15 2B, .824 OPS
Since a 2015 spending spree to reset the roster, the Dodgers have reduced for three straight seasons as president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman focuses on depth up and down the roster rather than investing in one or two mega-deals. While it seemed the bullpen was an area of greater need, Friedman went for Machado, who is a second-half rental as he approaches free agency. With shortstop Corey Seager expected back next season -- and under team control until 2022 -- Machado likely will be playing elsewhere in '19.
He homered twice in the final three games of the Dodgers' NLDS victory over the Braves, and with the Dodgers bullpen allowing just one earned run in 10 2/3 innings, Friedman appears to have made the right call.