Last year, the Los Angeles Dodgers had the opportunity to trade for Justin Verlander. Instead, they made a trade for Yu Darvish while the Houston Astros made the move for Verlander. When the two teams met in the World Series, it was clear which team made the better decision.
The 'Stros ace surrendered only five hits and five runs over two starts. Darvish didn't exactly help the Dodgers' World Series chances. Darvish took the mound for Game 3 and the results weren't pretty -- 1.2 IP, 4 ER -- and the Dodgers would go on to lose the game 5-3. After a Game 6 victory ensured a winner-take-all Game 7, Darvish was tapped to lead the charge. Once again, Darvish failed to make it out of the second inning -- 1.2 IP, 5 R, 4 ER. The Dodgers' hopes were immediately dashed and Houston would cruise the rest of the way in capturing their first World Series.
A year after whiffing on the chance to have Verlander for two seasons, while simultaneously keeping him away from another top contender, the Dodgers have finally gone all-in.
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) July 19, 2018
When Corey Seager underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery, the Dodgers were left with a massive hole in the middle of their lineup. In losing arguably their best position player, Seager's absence threw a wrench into the Dodgers' plans for the season. While they possess depth that most of the league would love to have, losing a bat like Seager's in the middle of the order could have been a crushing blow. Instead, the Dodgers rallied to claim first place in the NL West heading into the All-Star break. And now, Manny Machado is entering the scene primed to return the Dodgers back to the World Series.
Dodgers management had been hesitant to trade its top prospects since taking over the team in 2014, but pulled the trigger on Machado.
The Dodgers sent five prospects -- Yusniel Diaz, Zach Pop, Dean Kremer, Rylan Bannon, and Breyvic Valera -- to Baltimore in exchange for the superstar shortstop. Diaz, coming off a two home run performance in the 2018 Futures Game, was the crown jewel of Baltimore's haul. While Pop, Kremer, and Bannon have shown promising signs in the minors, the overwhelming sentiment is that the Dodgers were able to obtain Machado without compromising any of their top prospects.
Diaz was the fourth ranked prospect in the Dodgers' farm system, but the organization did well to hold on to top prospects Alex Verdugo, Keibert Ruiz (Yasmani Grandal's future replacement), Mitchell White, Dustin May, and Gavin Lux. Machado will enter free agency at season's end, and while it may seem like a risk to send promising prospects away in exchange for a rental, Machado is well worth the risk.
— Michael J. Duarte (@michaeljduarte) July 20, 2018
Machado gives the Dodgers a dynamic they have been lacking since Seager went down. Outside of Matt Kemp and Justin Turner -- who is still dealing with issues related to his broken wrist -- the Dodgers' lineup lacked a right-handed power bat. Machado is the perfect player for that role.
Machado put together the best stretch of baseball of his career throughout the first half in Baltimore. The slugger went into the All-Star break hitting .315 with 24 HR and 65 RBI. Machado's current pace would put him well past his best statistical season (2016). That year, Machado hit .294 with 37 HR and 96 RBI. Machado's switch to shortstop hasn't been seamless -- he is last among shortstops when it comes to defensive runs saved -- but he remains one of the best defensive third basemen. Machado has been steadfast that he no longer wants to see time at third, but his move to a contender has seemingly softened his stance.
According to Zaidi, Dave Roberts has discussed with Machado the importance of being versatile:
"He understands the way we manage the roster and the options that Doc likes to have moving guys around. He’s told us he wants to do whatever he can to help this team succeed and win, so he’s on board."
Machado's willingness to spend some time at third makes life a lot easier for Roberts. Chris Taylor has been the primary Dodger shortstop since Seager's injury, but he is capable of playing second base or going back to center field. Kiké Hernández, the Dodgers' ultimate Swiss Army knife, is an option to play any position other than catcher. The emergence of Max Muncy has made it difficult to take him out of the lineup. Another possibility for Roberts would be to play Muncy at first, moving Cody Bellinger to center.
Take a look at the Dodgers' potential lineup once Yasiel Puig returns:
- 2B Taylor
- 3B Turner
- SS Machado
- 1B Muncy
- LF Kemp
- CF Bellinger
- C Grandal
- RF Puig
- P Kershaw
The Dodgers' depth provides Roberts with a multitude of options in tinkering with the lineup. Austin Barnes, Chase Utley, Logan Forsythe, and Andrew Toles can be brought in to play multiple positions as well. The biggest name left out of the lineup would be Joc Pederson. Pederson has 13 home runs on the year and is a solid defensive option in center. Pederson and the aforementioned Hernández are likely the first two players off the bench for Roberts.
While the Dodgers could still use some help in the bullpen, the addition of Machado solidifies their position as the favorite to come out of the West. Of greater importance than the division crown, the Machado acquisition may give the Dodgers the best lineup in the National League and a clear shot at another pennant.
For the Dodgers, this deal was a necessary risk. The upside of adding Machado far outweighs losing prospects who may or may not pan out. And who knows, if Machado chooses to sign with the team during the offseason, the Dodgers could feature a lineup with Machado and a returning Seager. That has the potential to be special.
Source Images: Dodgers/Twitter, Michael J. Duarte/Twitter, Patrick Smith/Getty Images