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Dodgers Dugout: Analyzing the Max Scherzer, Trea Turner and Danny Duffy deals

Max Scherzer talks to Dave Roberts in the dugout Saturday.
(Rick Scuteri/ AP)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell and the Dodgers were very quiet at the trade deadline.

Ha! Just kidding. It was quite the eventful Thursday night/Friday morning. First, the Dodgers acquired left-handed pitcher Danny Duffy from Kansas City for a player to be named. Then, word came out that the San Diego Padres were extremely close to acquiring Max Scherzer, the best starting pitcher on the market. Dodger fans were deflated, and emails began to come in complaining that Andrew Friedman was too timid.

Then, suddenly, it turned out the Dodgers had acquired Scherzer and Trea Turner from the Nationals. There was celebration throughout the land! And I never got followup emails from those criticizing Friedman to say they were wrong.

Before we analyze the trades, let’s recap them.

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—Acquired starter Danny Duffy and cash from Kansas City for a player to be named.

—Acquired starter Max Scherzer and infielder Trea Turner from Washington for pitcher Josiah Gray, catcher Keibert Ruiz, minor league outfielder Donovan Casey and minor league pitcher Gerardo Carrillo.

The Danny Duffy trade

A left-hander, Duffy was 4-3 with a 2.51 ERA in 12 starts with the Royals, but there’s a good chance he will be a bullpen piece for the Dodgers, someone who can pitch multiple innings, like Julio Urías did last season. Duffy is in his 11th season and will be a free agent after the season. He is currently on the 10-day disabled list with a strained left forearm and isn’t expected back until late August. To make room for him on the 40-man roster, the Dodgers designated DJ Peters for assignment.

It’s hard to analyze a trade where the acquisition won’t pitch for a month and we don’t know who will be given up. A lot will be determined by when Duffy comes back. The earlier he comes back and the better he pitches, then the “player to be named” will be a better player. It won’t be a top prospect though. This trade has the possibility of being a steal, and the possibility of having no impact whatsoever. If Duffy comes back and pitches like he has, it will be a very good trade.

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The Scherzer-Turner trade

Max Scherzer is an elite starting pitcher in his 14th season in the majors and in the final year of his contract and is 8-4 with a 2.76 ERA and 147 strikeouts in 111 innings. He has three Cy Young Awards and will be elected to the Hall of Fame, probably on the first ballot. Trea Turner is hitting .322/.369/.521 and is a career .300 hitter. He can play shortstop, second and center (though has played nowhere but shortstop since 2017).

In short, it’s hard to find a big downside to this trade. Oh sure, it’s possible, maybe even probable that Scherzer leaves after this season. But Turner is eligible for arbitration after this season, so he’ll be back, and will be a free agent after the 2022 season. Scherzer basically replaces Trevor Bauer in the rotation, and is better, or at the very least as good as Bauer.

The Dodgers gave up quite a haul to get these guys. However, the emergence of Will Smith made Ruiz expendable, and the reason you have a guy like Ruiz is to use him as a trade chip in deals just like this. Gray is going to be a decent major league pitcher for quite a while. Donovan Casey hit .296/.362/.462 for double-A Tulsa this season, but he’s already 25 and is older than most players at the double-A level. It’s unlikely he turns into an All-Star in the majors. Gerardo Carrillo is a 22-year-old right-hander who had a 4.25 ERA in 14 starts at Tulsa and allowed 78 baserunners in 59.1 innings.

This is a deal designed to win the World Series this year. You are trading in the futures of four players for three months of Scherzer and a year and three months of Turner. Of course, if the Dodgers re-sign both, that changes the deal dramatically, but we can’t assume something like that will happen. It’s not fun giving up players like Ruiz and Gray, but to get great players you have to give up potential great players. Just like when the Dodgers traded Alex Verdugo for Mookie Betts. They won the World Series last season because of it, but Verdugo has become an excellent player. I’d still rather have Betts and the title.

There is always risk in trades like this. Scherzer could pitch poorly, he could get hurt. Turner might not play well. But, those things are unlikely, and you can’t be paralyzed by the fear of what might happen. You have to look at the track record of everyone involved. In short, this is a good trade right now. A year from now, we might be saying “That trade didn’t work out like we expected,” but I doubt it.

One thing is certain: Dodger fans can no longer complain that Friedman is afraid to make a big transaction. They really couldn’t before, but there’s no room for argument now.

By the way, what do the Dodgers do with their lineup when Turner comes off the COVID protocol list, probably at the end of this week? There are a few options. You could put Seager at short, Turner at second and move Chris Taylor to left field. You could move Taylor to left. But, and the Dodgers haven’t asked me, here’s my Dodger lineup:

Mookie Betts, rf
Trea Turner, 2B
Max Muncy, 1B
Justin Turner, 3B
Will Smith, C
Chris Taylor, CF
Corey Seager, SS
AJ Pollock, LF
pitcher

You can move people around in that batting order however you want. And yep, I’d bench Cody Bellinger. He’s an outstanding centerfielder, but he’s hitting .163. His big hits usually come when the Dodgers are well ahead or behind. There’s a division to be won, and World Series title to defend, and you can’t be so worried about everyone’s feelings, or just wait around for someone to start hitting, that you cost the team ball games. Some will say he has been hitting better lately, but he’s four for his last 24, six for his last 45 and 10 for his last 82. There wasn’t a center fielder in history whose defense was so good that he could play with a .163/.263/.285 slash line. It’s time to put the team in position to have its best chance for success, give Bellinger all the help he needs to work on his swing behind the scenes, and hope he comes back strong next season.

What’s the downside?

The downside to the deals is this: The biggest Achilles’ heel for the Dodgers this season has been the bullpen, and nothing was really done to address that. Putting Duffy in the bullpen will help. Getting Corey Knebel back will help. But almost everyone in the bullpen makes fans nervous. Instead of one Pedro Baez, they have eight. If there’s a one game wild-card playoff, the Dodgers will be fine with Scherzer or Walker Buehler starting. But then what? Can Blake Treinen pitch three innings? Yes, I’m being a little overly dramatic, but there’s still reason for concern in the bullpen.

What about next season?

Does acquiring Trea Turner mean Corey Seager won’t be re-signed this offseason? I don’t think it necessarily does. There’s an excellent chance that the DH will return to the NL permanently beginning next season. The Dodgers could bring Seager back and shuffle players in and out of the DH role. Anyway, there’s plenty of time to worry about next season after this season ends.

What did the Giants and Padres do?

Here are the deadline deals by the Dodgers’ closest division rivals:

Giants

Acquire left-handed reliever Tony Watson from the Angels for left-handed reliever Sam Selman and prospects Jose Marte and Ivan Armstrong.

Acquire third baseman Kris Bryant from the Cubs for prospects Alexander Canario and Caleb Kilian.

Padres

Acquire outfielder Jake Marisnick from the Cubs for for right-handed pitcher Anderson Espinoza.

Acquire right-handed reliever Daniel Hudson from the Nationals for right-handed pitcher Mason Thompson.

Acquire second baseman Adam Frazier and cash from the Pirates for right fielder Jack Suwinski, RHP Michell Millano and shortstop Tucupita Marcano.

For all the trade deadline deals across baseball and an analysis of each one, click here.

Don’t just read me

We have many fine reporters at The Times who took a look at the deals. Check them out for other perspectives:

Jorge Castillo: Dodgers’ trade for Max Scherzer and Trea Turner was bold — and essential

Mike DiGiovanna: Corey Seager says Trea Turner trade makes Dodgers ‘a better team’

Bill Plaschke: Bringing in Max Scherzer and Trea Turner is Andrew Friedman’s latest magic moment

What’s the Dodgers roster now?

Some changes are brewing. Zach McKinstry is back in the minors. DJ Peters is off the 40-man roster. Luke Raley is back in the minors. Here’s the 26-man roster as of Sunday night:

Pitchers (14)
Phil Bickford
Walker Buehler
Garrett Cleavinger
Victor Gonzalez
Kenley Jansen
Joe Kelly
Jimmy Nelson
David Price
Yefry Ramirez
Max Scherzer
Blake Treinen
Edwin Uceta
Julio Urías
Alex Vesia

Catchers (2)
Austin Barnes
Will Smith

Infielders (4)
Max Muncy
Albert Pujols
Corey Seager
Justin Turner

Outfielders (6)
Matt Beaty
Cody Bellinger
Mookie Betts
Billy McKinney
AJ Pollock
Chris Taylor

You could easily list Taylor as an infielder as well, but the Dodgers list him as an outfielder, so that’s what we’re going with. When Trea Turner joins the roster, expect a pitcher to be sent down. Yefry Ramirez is a pitcher who was brought up from the minors on Sunday. He is is 3-3 with a 5.49 ERA in 15 games for Oklahoma City this season and has a 6.32 ERA in parts of two seasons with Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

Kershaw has a setback

The left-hander, on the 10-day IL with left elbow inflammation, played catch on Sunday but the simulated game he was scheduled to pitch was canceled because of “residual soreness” in his elbow.

“We want to get to the next day,” Dave Roberts said. “At some point soon, when he feels pain-free and strong enough to pitch a sim game, we’ll get to that point.”

Scherzer gets No. 31

Scherzer was given No. 31, which is the number he wore with the Nationals. The last player to wear 31 for the Dodgers was Joc Pederson. The best player to wear 31 for the Dodgers was Mike Piazza. The complete list:

Drew Butera (2013-2014)

Brandon League (2012-2013)

Tim Federowicz (2011)

Jay Gibbons (2010-2011)

James McDonald (2009-2010)

Brad Penny (2005-2008)

Mike Piazza (1993-1998)

Roger McDowell (1992)

Jim Neidlinger (1990)

Jim Poole (1990)

John Shelby (1987-1990)

Ed Vande Berg (1986)

Jack Fimple (1983-1984)

Jorge Orta (1982)

Doug Rau (1972-1979)

Hoyt Wilhelm (1971-1972)

Charlie Hough (1970)

Gary Moore (1970)

Al McBean (1969-1970)

Ted Savage (1968)

Jim Campanis (1966)

Don LeJohn (1965)

Hank Behrman (1946)

Otis Davis (1946)

Dick Whitman (1946)

Eddie Basinski (1945)

Les Webber (1942-1945)

Alex Kampouris (1941)

Gene Moore (1940)

Eddie Wilson (1936)

Injury Report

Scott Alexander (10-day IL, left shoulder inflammation): Alexander has had shoulder problems all season.

Tony Gonsolin (10-day IL, right shoulder inflammation): Gonsolin will continue working on strengthening his shoulder and could be back relatively quickly.

Clayton Kershaw (10-day IL, elbow inflammation): We talked about him above.

Corey Knebel (60-day IL, right lat strain): Knebel began a rehab assignment at triple-A Oklahoma City and has struck out six in 2.2 innings, giving up two hits. He will return soon.

Gavin Lux (10-day IL, strained left hamstring): He has been doing exercises but no timetable for his return has been announced.

Jimmie Sherfy (60-day IL, right elbow inflammation): He was transferred to the 60-day IL last week and probably won’t return this season at all.

Caleb Ferguson, Tommy Kahnle and Dustin May are all recovering from Tommy John surgery and are out the rest of this season. Edwin Rios had shoulder surgery and is also out for the rest of the season.

And finally

Vin Scully on how he prepared for a game. Watch and listen here.

Until next time...

Have a comment or something you’d like to see in a future Dodgers newsletter? Email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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