Before the trade deadline, there was only one certainty, one obvious move that was going to be made. The Dodgers were going to acquire a fourth ace, picking from a pool that included David Price, Jon Lester, and Cole Hamels. The rest of the trade deadline was going to fall in around that certainty. The Dodgers had the prospects, the money, the urgency. It was going to happen.
On Friday night, the Dodgers are going to start Roberto Hernandez, the player to be named later who was acquired for players to be named later. If the Dodgers get to the National League Championship Series or the World Series, they will use either Hernandez or the disappointing Dan Haren for a game or two.
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Haren still has something left in the tank
Dan Haren snapped a horrific slump with his longest outing of the season, leading the Dodgers to a 2-1 win over the Angels on Wednesday night in Anaheim.
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Despite the largest payroll in the history of North American sports, the Dodgers could be in a situation where they have to rely on a Phillies castoff -- unless they want to try the Kershaw-on-short-rest gambit that didn't work last year. The back of the Dodgers' rotation is the thermal exhaust port on the Death Star. Seems like a maintenance crew with some aluminum siding and a few hours could have fixed it.
"I used to bullseye ace pitchers in my GM job back home. They weren't much bigger than David Price."
-- Ned Colletti, probably
This is the part of the article where we look into the Dodgers' decision to stand pat at the deadline.
The Dodgers' decision seems hard to believe now, but the Dodgers didn't know that Josh Beckett's hip was going to knock him out for the year. The decision was a little trickier when the Dodgers were essentially looking for a fifth starter with a first starter's résumé. We have the benefit of glorious, unfair hindsight. Should the Dodgers have traded their best prospects for a Lester, Price, or Hamels?
The timing on this question is good, because Ben Lindbergh at Grantland did a lot of the heavy lifting. He employed the help of Baseball Prospectus supercomputers to figure out the true value of a Super Rotation, focusing on the arms race between the Tigers and A's. His conclusion: It's easy to overstate the importance of a Super Rotation in the playoffs. Except there was a disclaimer:
(The A's and Tigers') rotations go *four* deep in near-top-of-the-rotation talents, which means that as long as their current starters make it to October intact — something the A’s, who always prudently plan for the worst instead of wishcasting, never take for granted — they won’t have to make the choice that the ’01 Diamondbacks did: *Subject our starters to an extraordinary workload, or start Albie Lopez*?
The Dodgers have an Albie Lopez. Two, actually. They won't have to do what the 2001 Diamondbacks did -- Johnson and Schilling and pray for ... aw, hell, just start Johnson and Schilling again -- because Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-Jin Ryu form a formidable trio. But there is a huge drop after that. A drop they could have fixed for this year and, in the case of Price and Hamels, next year, too.
The prospects needed for an ace would have been some combination of Joc Pederson, Corey Seager, and Julio Urias. You might have heard of all three, or you might have no more than a passing knowledge of the minors. As with any prospects, there's a good chance that sentence is going to read like Brandon Wood/Dallas McPherson/Casey Kotchman does now. There's a not-insane chance that there will be a few All-Star appearances mixed in, though. Cheap, cheap All-Star appearances that will allow the Dodgers to spend even more on Puigs and Greinkes as needed.
I'm fascinated with the Johan Santana trade, and the fascination gets stronger with time. The Twins missed the playoffs by a Santana-sized margin the next year. They got back an All-Star, Carlos Gomez, who didn't blossom until he was with another team. And they had to sift through piles and piles of magic beans, offers that were overwhelming and tempting. Then there was this rumor:
In his ESPN.com chat yesterday afternoon, Jonah Keri of Page 2 confirmed the Johan Santana for Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw rumor that’s been generating a lot of buzz here at MLBTR.
That specific pairing might have been nothing but a rumor, or it might have been on the table before the Twins went with the Mets. Just Kershaw, though, was a possibility as a centerpiece of a Santana deal. You know there are people in the Dodgers front office that remember that, and wonder what might have been. That thought is enough to chill a GM to the bone and clutch the top prospects a little tighter.
But in addition to that scorched-earth rumor, there are the deals that weren't made in 2008 or 2009 that we never heard about. The Andy LaRoche/Chin-Lung Hu packages the Indians were considering for Cliff Lee and C.C. Sabathia, but only if Scott Elbert was added to the deal. The risks that weren't taken, the ones that ended with Derek Lowe and Chad Billingsley each starting on three days' rest in the NLCS.
I'm with Lindbergh that a Super Rotation can be overrated, considering they eventually have to face other well-constructed rosters in short playoff series of nonsense-filled nonsense. I'm also stunned that the Dodgers didn't take the risk, and it's even more stunning with the Beckett risk. I'm not going to go as far as writing that they'll regret it -- mostly because I'm a Giants fan, and I don't want to be a Franklin Q. Jinxpants -- but I would have traded two of the three top prospects up there for Price or Hamels, and certainly considered a package built around one of them for Lester.
In the worst-case scenario, the Dodgers would have to rely on free agents or trades to fill the holes that Pederson, Seager, or Urias would have cheaply filled. This is not as crippling for the Dodgers as it would be for, say, the A's. Yet the A's were the ones taking those gambles. In four years, when Seager and Pederson are combining for 70 homers and/or Urias is an established ace, everyone can point and laugh at this conclusion. Heck, do it now, if you'd like. Do it in November, when it's clear the Dodgers didn't need that fourth ace after all.
I would have taken the risk, though. The Dodgers have a lot of confidence in their current roster, as they should. Let's see if it's a good thing that they weren't as jittery and caffeinated as I would have been.