Dodgers do it their way at deadline by acquiring Dozier and Axford
Brian Dozier won a Gold Glove last year, when he hit 34 home runs. The year before, he hit 42 home runs. In both of those years, he finished among the top 13 in the American League most valuable player vote.
When Dave Roberts spoke with Dozier on Tuesday, welcoming him to the Dodgers after a trade with the Minnesota Twins, the Dodgers’ manager told the second baseman he would not necessarily play every day in Los Angeles.
The instant reaction: The Dodgers had too few innings to spread among too many good players.
“High-class problem,” Roberts quipped before a 1-0 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers.
The more significant takeaway: As the Dodgers take aim at a sixth consecutive National League West championship and second consecutive World Series appearance, they are unshaken in their belief that they can win their way. In acquiring Dozier and Toronto Blue Jays reliever John Axford at Tuesday’s trade deadline, the Dodgers added two more pieces to their ever-shifting roster puzzle.
If you demand an everyday position or a defined role on the pitching staff, the Dodgers are not the team for you.
“This game is evolving,” Roberts said, “the way you manage it, the way you construct lineups and rosters.
“The players that feel they can only perform in a certain role, it’s a little bit of a crutch.”
The Dodgers already had acquired the best player traded in July, infielder Manny Machado. He will play every day, but he already has shifted between shortstop and third base.
The additions of Dozier and Axford might not rank as high in marquee value. However, the Dodgers on Tuesday did the most of any team to improve its chances of reaching the World Series, according to Neifi Analytics simulations before and after the day’s trades.
In all, the Dodgers traded 10 minor leaguers in July, acquiring Machado, Dozier, Axford and reliever Dylan Floro without surrendering their top young players — pitcher Walker Buehler, outfielder Alex Verdugo and catcher Keibert Ruiz — or adding enough payroll to trigger a luxury-tax payment.
All of the three reinforcements — Machado, Dozier and Axford — can file for free agency after the season.
When the Twins agreed to take infielder Logan Forsythe for Dozier, the Dodgers agreed to include better prospects: double-A outfielder Luke Raley and double-A pitcher Devin Smeltzer. Neither is ranked among the Dodgers’ top 15 prospects. For Axford, the Dodgers gave up unranked triple-A reliever Corey Copping.
Forsythe sat out a month with a shoulder inflammation, an injury he attributed in part to moving from second base to third base in March to replace an injured Justin Turner. The Dodgers’ second basemen, primarily Forsythe and Chase Utley, are batting .211 — the lowest such figure in the NL — with seven home runs.
The Dodgers had limited Forsythe to starts against left-handers, but he was batting .207 with two home runs, including a .176 average and .486 on-base-plus-slugging percentage against left-handers. Dozier is batting .226 with 16 home runs, including a .247 average and .722 OPS against left-handers.
Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi said the team had become concerned about its vulnerability to left-handed pitching.
The lefties among NL West contenders include Patrick Corbin and Robbie Ray of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Tyler Anderson and Kyle Freeland of the Colorado Rockies, and Madison Bumgarner and Derek Holland of the San Francisco Giants. If the Dodgers draw the Chicago Cubs in a third consecutive October, the Cubs could start Jon Lester, Jose Quintana and the newly acquired Cole Hamels.
Axford has a 4.45 ERA in 45 appearances. But he has gotten more than half his outs on ground balls, and he has held left-handed batters to a .147 average. The Dodgers will throw him into a relief mix in which closer Kenley Jansen and left-handed setup man Scott Alexander appear to be the only locks for an October bullpen, and they will match up relievers against opposing batters rather than hope that a bridge to Jansen emerges in the way Brandon Morrow did last year.
“I don’t know that we’re going to evolve into a team that has a pure eighth-inning guy,” Zaidi said.
When rosters expand in September, and off days expand in October, the Dodgers could experiment with what Zaidi called “unconventional” ways of getting the 27 outs necessary to win a game.
He said All-Star starter Ross Stripling and rehabilitating Hyun-Jin Ryu and Julio Urias could be used as relievers, perhaps in two- and three-inning chunks behind a starter. The Houston Astros won Game 7 of the World Series last year with starter Charlie Morton pitching the final four innings in relief.
The clubhouse reaction to the trade was a bit subdued, given Forsythe’s popularity, even as he had become a target of fan frustration.
“It’s great, I guess,” Enrique Hernandez said. “If that’s what they think we need to win the World Series, great. The business part of baseball really sucks, especially seeing one of your good friends get traded away, and that’s Logan.”
Chris Taylor called Forsythe “one of my favorite teammates,” and Matt Kemp called the trade “exciting but also disappointing. You lose friends.”
Kemp said he thought Dozier would adjust happily.
“I’m sure he’s excited to be in L.A.,” Kemp said. “I think everybody that comes to L.A. is excited to be in L.A.”
And how to explain the demotion from the everyday second base role he had with the Twins?
“I’d argue,” Roberts said, “they didn’t have the depth that we have.”
Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin
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