Column: By acquiring Yu Darvish, executives give Dodgers what they need to make World Series dream a reality
The Dodgers had identified Darvish as their top target even before Clayton Kershaw went on the disabled list with a back injury. The team now can envision a playoff rotation of Kershaw, Darvish, Alex Wood and Rich Hill. (July 31, 2017) (Sign up for
An enchanted season just became more magical. A summer of hope is now bursting at the seams. The march toward history has become a furious sprint.
The Dodgers acquired Texas Rangers ace Yu Darvish on Monday, and now all things seem possible.
A great team looks like a championship team. The titans of July are dressed and ready for October. A 28-season World Series drought feels like it could end in three short months.
Is there such a thing as a walk-off trade? The Dodgers made one, adding Darvish to their loaded rotation in the final minutes before Monday’s trade deadline, hitting a two-out homer that could sail into autumn.
Is it possible to celebrate one of the season’s biggest victories on a day when the team doesn’t even play? The Dodgers did just that, also adding two left-handed relievers — Pittsburgh’s Tony Watson and Cincinnati’s Tony Cingrani — to complete a pitching staff without trading any of their three most coveted prospects.
Can MVP candidates be guys who don’t wear uniforms? Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi now qualify, the Dodgers executives performing with the same bold brilliance in the front office that their team has shown on the field.
The clubhouse wanted another starting pitcher in the wake of Clayton Kershaw’s injury and past October rotation meltdowns, with manager Dave Roberts even publicly lobbying for Darvish. The front office gave it to them.
The clubhouse knew it would need left-handed relief help with several powerful opposing left-handed hitters — guys such as Bryce Harper and Anthony Rizzo — waiting for them in the postseason. The front office gave it to them.
The players have performed beyond belief, with a 74-31 record that puts them on a pace to have one of the best regular seasons in baseball history. Management has rewarded them for it, answering their questions, filling their needs, and removing their excuses.
From this moment forward, the Dodgers hopes are entirely in the hands of the players, which is exactly what they want, and precisely where they belong. These players have earned the best possible chance to win a championship, and management has powerfully given them that chance.
“I think it will definitely be an emotional boost for the team,’’ general manager Zaidi said during a conference call Monday afternoon, chuckling and then adding, “It’s hard to say they needed it.’’
Oh, for several reasons, they needed this.
Kershaw may miss a month because of a back strain, and once the playoffs arrive he might not be in shape to pitch on three days’ rest as he has done in the past. With Darvish, that is no longer a worry; the Dodgers, with Alex Wood and Rich Hill, are now able to run out four potentially strong arms.
“Having four is certainly better than having three,’’ Zaidi said.
On many other staffs, Darvish would be the ace; he has a record of 52-39 with a 3.42 earned-run average during five seasons with the Rangers. In that span, he leads the American League in holding opponents to a .218 batting average while also accumulating a league-leading 11.04 strikeouts per nine innings.
Darvish has struggled this year, going 6-9 with a 4.01 ERA, including a 7.20 ERA in his last five starts. Another strike against him is that he is a free agent after this season, meaning the Dodgers might have just traded three prospects — including highly regarded second baseman Willie Calhoun — for a three-month rental.
Smartly for the Dodgers front office, they ignored the recent trade-distracted numbers, ignored the long-term implications, and went for it. The result is not only a win for the players, but a victory for the fans, and redemption for two years ago.
Remember the first summer of the Friedman-Zaidi regime, when they failed to acquire Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels at the trade deadline, losing him to the Rangers? Remember who started Game 3 of that National League division series against the New York Mets? It was Brett Anderson, who gave up six runs in three innings and put the Dodgers in a hole from which they never recovered.
Those Dodgers had the historic one-two punch of Kershaw and Zack Greinke and blew it. These Dodgers could be on the verge of making history again, only now they are set up to complete a long-awaited mission.
“This is just going to make this a better baseball team,” Zaidi said.
Better, empowered, inspired, and pushed toward October by one of the longest blasts in a summer filled with them. On the last day in July there was no game but big fireworks.
It was a day when Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi went deep.
Get more of Bill Plaschke’s work and follow him on Twitter @BillPlaschke
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