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OC Register: Alexander: For Dodgers, a frustrating trade deadline

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Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said it right after the 2019 trade deadline, a year when his team’s fan base grumbled about unmade deals and pitchers who wound up either going elsewhere or staying where they were. Does that sound familiar?

“I totally get that. I was a fan, and being a fan means you care about today,” he said then. “And I think that’s great. That’s what professional sports is. There’s an entertainment factor. There’s a passion. There’s a wanting to do everything to win that day. And emotionally I feel that way, and that’s where our mind also has to fire with being crazy but not stupid. And that was the line.”

Crazy, he said, meant being aggressive. Stupid meant making a deal you knew was a poor decision when you made it.

“(T)here’s a very good chance that our future selves are really happy that some of the bids we made were not accepted,” he added.

Well, put it this way: Three of the prospects prominently mentioned then in speculation about relief help were Gavin Lux, Dustin May and Keibert Ruiz. Lux and May have been major league contributors before suffering season-ending injuries this year. Ruiz, who was not traded for Pittsburgh reliever Felipe Vázquez in 2019, was instead sent to Washington at the 2021 deadline to acquire 2½ months of future Hall of Famer Max Scherzer and a season-plus of shortstop Trea Turner.

No, Tuesday was not Baseball Christmas for Dodger fans, with their team unable to add at least one more prominent piece to a starting rotation that has been operating on fumes. But the prospects/players they didn’t give up might be key components three years from now, or sooner. There is a balance between going for it today and protecting your future, as little as that mollifies those on the outside.

So, given the parameters Friedman laid out four years ago, would the pursuit of Eduardo Rodriguez – a guy who could block a trade to the Dodgers and did so, reportedly because of a preference to stay close to family on the East Coast – go in the crazy or stupid category? (That might depend on the point at which the Tigers disclosed the details of Rodriguez’s no-trade list.)

The biggest move the Dodgers made Tuesday was to acquire right-handed pitcher Ryan Yarbrough from Kansas City, a hybrid starter/reliever whose last act as a Royal was a solid seven-inning stint Sunday against Minnesota. They also sent Justin Bruihl to Colorado, minor league shortstop Eddys Leonard to Detroit and Phil Bickford and Adam Kolarek to the Mets, all for cash.

The Dodgers did trade last week for Lance Lynn, Tuesday night’s starter against the Oakland A’s. But the rotation has still performed way below traditional Dodger standards while overly depending on rookies Bobby Miller, Emmet Sheehan and Michael Grove, and waiting for Clayton Kershaw to exit the injured list and ride to the rescue.

Otherwise, they operated on the margins in the last week, bringing back old friends Kiké Hernandez and Joe Kelly and adding infielder Amed Rosario, the latter addition by subtraction with Noah Syndergaard going to Cleveland. The additions should improve their platoon effectiveness from the right side and will give them another hard-throwing bullpen arm in Kelly, who also happens to be an L.A. folk hero for those who remember The Pout.

But Dodger fans wanted more. They watched Justin Verlander go to Houston, Jack Flaherty to Baltimore, Michael Lorenzen to Philadelphia and Rich Hill to San Diego on Tuesday afternoon, with Dylan Cease staying with the White Sox and Rodriguez in Detroit after the aborted deal.

While Friedman and General Manager Brandon Gomes were (a) timid or (b) snakebit depending on your perspective, Angels GM Perry Minasian went all-in. His mid-year acquisitions included infielders Eduardo Escobar and Mike Moustakas in late June and, in the last week, starting pitcher Lucas Giolito and reliever Reynaldo López from the White Sox and infielder C.J. Cron and outfielder Randal Grichuk from the Colorado Rockies. The Angels added bullpen piece Dominic Leone from the Mets just before Tuesday’s 3 p.m. deadline.

In the process, Minasian satisfied the one guy the Angels needed to satisfy, Shohei Ohtani.

I’m not sure how close the parallel is, but I’ve got to think Minasian was paying attention in 2021 when his former boss, the Atlanta Braves’ Alex Anthopoulos, compensated for Ronald Acuña Jr.’s season-ending injury by acquiring Joc Pederson on July 16 and Eddie Rosario, Adam Duvall, Jorge Soler and pitcher Richard Rodriguez in the days before the deadline.  Atlanta was 52-55 on Aug. 1, went 36-18 the rest of the regular season and ended it as World Series champions.

Far-fetched? Going into Tuesday’s games the Angels were 56-51 and three games out of a wild card spot, and while division rivals Texas and Houston reloaded with Scherzer and Verlander respectively, it doesn’t seem quite as unfair a fight as it might have a few weeks ago.

Worth noting: The five prospects the Angels surrendered in the three deals with the White Sox, Rockies and Mets over the last week were all in Baseball America’s midseason list of the organization’s top 30 prospects, including their No. 2 (catcher Edgar Quero) and No. 4 (left-handed pitcher Ky Bush) prospects, both going to the White Sox. Minasian was willing to do what it took.

The Dodgers? Friedman and Gomes surrendered seven minor leaguers and only one – No. 10 Nick Nastrini, a right-handed starting pitcher who went to the Boston Red Sox in the Hernandez deal – was in the top 20 of the Dodgers’ Baseball America list. Yes, they kept their top guys, but you can also say they weren’t willing to pay what was needed for a starting pitcher who could make a difference now. Most fans would make that argument.

We don’t know, of course, who Friedman and Gomes offered to the Tigers in the aborted deal for Rodriguez.

How will their future selves evaluate this deadline performance? The first report card will come sometime in October.


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