Dodgers make brilliant trade; LA media complains

dodgers-kasten-right-lao.jpgDodgers president Stan Kasten. LA Observed photo.

The Dodgers made a terrific trade before deadline acquiring Mat Latos from the Miami Marlins and Alex Wood from the Atlanta Braves to fill out their rotation. They also added a quality bullpen arm in Jim Johnson, and a decent lefty reliever in Luis Avilan. The Dodgers also picked up highly touted prospect Jose Peraza, who could be their starting second baseman as early as next year.

The trade answered some of the Dodgers most pressing needs. They got much-needed rotation depth. They added two players who can be Dodgers for years to come. And they gave a significant boost to their tired bullpen.

Latos is an excellent pitcher whose only career struggles came early this year, but he's been great again since coming off the DL. He's a guy who was once so highly valued that he was traded for Yasmani Grandal, Brad Boxberger, Yonder Alonso, and Edinson Volquez. Wood is also a highly touted young pitcher, having just as good of a year as Cole Hamels. At 24, he's just coming into his prime, and the Dodgers control his rights through 2019. I'm also optimistic that pitching coach Rick Honeycutt can improve Wood's performance.

Johnson provides the Dodgers with a great setup man for Kenley Jansen. While Avilan gives the team a second lefty out of the bullpen after J.P. Howell and his 0.89 ERA. With Jansen, Johnson, and Howell, the Dodgers can shorten games in a way they haven't been able to for a while.

This incredibly complex trade cost the Dodgers a good deal of money, which they had apparently to spend. But the only great player of value they traded away was 30-year old third baseman Hector Olivera, who is a question mark defensively and has never played a Major League game.

So you would think that the LA sports media would love this deal. Think again. Instead the Dodgers media was devastated that the team didn't trade for David Price or Cole Hamels.

Before it was known that Wood was part of the deal, an LA Times headlined complained "Cole Hamels? David Price? No, Dodgers trade for Marlins' Latos." Never mind that the Dodgers already have two of the game's best pitchers in Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, who they're paying a combined $350 million. Never mind that Mat Latos is a really good pitcher. It's like the opposite of Passover's "Dayenu." It's not enough.

Later on Thursday, I heard 710 AM ESPN Radio's Jeff Katz ask listeners: "What do you think about the Dodgers decision to be more reserved? Should they have gone all-in?"

First off, doing a complicated three-team, 13-player trade that nets four quality Major Leaguers and one highly-touted prospect is hardly being "reserved." I know what it's like to work with Dodgers GM Andrew Friedman, and "reserved" is about the last word I'd use to describe him. He's about as active and intense as any person around the trade deadline that you'll meet.

But secondly, the Dodgers are spending one-third of a billion dollars on payroll this season. They're willing to spend $86 million on players they don't even have just to facilitate a stronger roster. The next closest team - the Yankees - are spending over $100 million less. If that's not going "all in" then I don't know what is.

Later in the day, I was listening to the "Petros & Money Show" on KLAC 570 AM, a show that I normally like. But the duo, which has been complaining about Dodger management for a while, stepped up the whine factor.

"Stand pat and build from within," bristled Petros Papadakis about the Dodgers desire to not give up their own prospects.

"Yeah, like that's worked for the past 10 years," Matt "Money" Smith sarcastically added.

Later on, Papadakis went further in his criticism saying: "Why didn't they get the best guy available? Has it not been long enough since they last won the World Series?"

Acknowledging the gloomy feeling among the LA media, DodgersNation.com ran a headline that said: Dodgers Reaction: Missing Out on Aces Doesn't Spell Doom.

It's pathetic that some people think the Dodgers decision not to trade for Price or Hamels equates to "doom" for a team that's in first place and has an All-Star at every position except for Justin Turner at third base.

Let's set the record straight on one thing. Acquiring David Price or Cole Hamels does not guarantee the Dodgers a World Series title. Let me repeat that. Acquiring Price or Hamels does not guarantee the Dodgers a World Series.

In fact, giving up a slew of top prospects for either Price or Hamels would probably have a detrimental impact on the organization long-term.

Some people look at pitching rotations, and they assume that the rest of the team doesn't matter. In 2011, the Philadelphia Phillies had an all-world rotation with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt. They lost in the first round of the playoffs to the St. Cardinals, which had a rotation of Kyle Lohse, Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, and Edwin Jackson. The Cardinals went on to win the World Series that year.

Last year, the Detroit Tigers were everyone's pick to make the World Series with their 1-2-3 pitching combination of Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, and David Price. They were swept in the first round by a Baltimore Orioles team that started Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, and Bud Norris.

This is not to say that teams should go with mediocre pitching rotations and expect to win a title. But the teams that win championships have organizational depth from player one through 25, and even beyond. Sacrificing a major component of that organizational depth for one guy for a handful of postseason starts usually doesn't work.

I love David Price. He's easily one of the top-10 pitchers in the game. But he also has a 1-5 record in the postseason with a 4.50 ERA. Cole Hamels is also a fantastic pitcher. But despite his $23.5 million salary, he didn't even make the All-Star team this year. He has a 6-7 record with a 3.64 ERA in 20 starts and 128.2 innings pitched. New Dodger fifth starter Alex Wood is 7-6 with a 3.54 ERA in 20 starts and 119.1 innings pitched. Hamels is 31 and cost over $20 million a year through 2018. Wood is 24 and isn't arbitration eligible until 2017. Hamels might be the sexier name, but Wood is the better long-term option. And I really believe that Latos and Wood will be about as effective as Hamels the rest of the way.

The Dodgers already have the framework for a team that could win the World Series. They have two of the best pitchers in baseball in Kershaw and Greinke. Their biggest weakness has been organizational depth caused by disappointing drafts from former scouting director Logan White and lackluster player development under former farm director DeJon Watson.

The new Dodgers ownership has taken steps to improve their organizational depth, and they've refused to give up their best young players like Joc Pederson, Julio Urias, and Corey Seager. They want to win now. But they also want to win for the next ten years.

The lack of perspective has caught the attention of some in the national baseball media. In a column on the winners and losers from this year's trade deadline, ESPN's David Schoenfield called Dodgers fans a "loser." He wrote:

"Loser: Los Angeles Dodgers fans complaining the team didn't get Price. Come on, you already have Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke! Mat Latos and Alex Wood should help the rotation. Don't be so greedy.

In 2009, I wrote a column, berating sports talk radio hosts for saying the Dodgers should trade Clayton Kershaw for Roy Halladay. The argument back then was that the Dodgers needed to "show they want to win." It's a good thing the Dodgers never made that deal. Halladay did go on to have two spectacular seasons after 2009, winning the NL Cy Young Award in 2010, and being the running-up in 2011. His career was basically done after that. As for Kershaw, he beat Halladay for that 2011 Cy Young Award, and at 27, he figures to have many more great years ahead of him.

The comments from Petros & Money about the team "building from within" not working for 10 years were particularly asinine when you consider that the Dodgers problem in recent years has been their failure to build from within. In the past two years, the Dodgers have used a veteran roster consisting of other teams' draft picks and lost to a homegrown Cardinals team. The 2013 Dodgers had just five of their drafted players on a postseason roster that fell to a Cardinals team with 18 of their original draft picks and 21 homegrown players.

Great teams build with young players and sustain success by keeping them together. The Dodgers are trying to do just that. But they're also spending a fortune to win now with other teams' players. They're doing a pretty good job of that now. And as a Dodger fan, I'm grateful that they are getting better without giving up top prospects. It would be a mistake to mortgage the future for a piece that grabs headlines but doesn't guarantee anything.


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