Are the Dodgers about to pay big for trying to have it both ways?

Clayton Kershaw is suddenly the only pitcher in the Dodger rotation who scares opponents.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The Dodgers were built to win now. Weren’t they?

The Dodgers have a talent-laden lineup, stars in the rotation, closers galore and the biggest payroll in baseball.

“It’s World Series or bust,” Clayton Kershaw said recently on Colin Cowherd’s ESPN radio show.

That’s been the theme, right? Pieces were put into place to win, and the goal was the ultimate in baseball. In a remarkably short time the Dodgers’ new owners remade a roster with elite players, the focus on capturing the franchise’s first World Series title since 1988.


Only now you have to wonder if the Dodgers’ desire to have it both ways — win now while simultaneously rebuilding the farm system — might not cost them their best chance at winning this season.

The strength of their team this year has been the rotation, a rotation that now features Kershaw, sore-elbowed Zack Greinke, inconsistent Dan Haren and two August pickups — Roberto Hernandez and Kevin Correia — who don’t exactly set the heart racing. Unless you’re possibly in the opposing dugout.

The Dodgers tried to have it both ways and the have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too routine just might cost them a rare World Series.

At some point the Dodgers said they would transition from an organization that went out and spent big to acquire talent to a franchise that developed it from within.

I guess that time is now. It came more quickly that most probably anticipated.

The Dodgers made no significant signing or trade in the off-season. They gambled they already had enough to win. And then when the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline found the Dodgers 3½ games up in the standings, they passed.

Significant starting pitchers were dealt — David Price, Jon Lester, Jeff Samardzija, John Lackey — while the Dodgers held tight to their major prospects.

They were unwilling to trade a little future for the present. That’s counter to the approach of supposedly putting together a team meant to win now.

Or bust.

The Dodgers couldn’t know Hyun-Jin Ryu would suffer a freak butt injury or Greinke’s elbow would start barking. They did know they couldn’t count on Josh Beckett to keep throwing the way he had in the first half and that Paul Maholm’s knee had gone.

Right now they have a makeshift rotation that isn’t going to scare anyone when it’s not Kershaw’s turn. Maybe Greinke’s elbow recovers just fine and Ryu returns in time for the stretch drive and they all live happily ever after.

But a team that was built to win now may yet regret hanging on to prospects at the possible cost of a title.