The 2020 trade deadline came and went without any major splashes from the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers. Many expected Los Angeles to go after an impact player to tighten their stronghold on the National League. After not landing any additional talent last Monday, the Dodgers appear confident in the chances of their current roster down the stretch.
Despite Quiet Deadline, Dodgers Confident in Roster
After a dominant start to the season, it’s hard to blame the front office for holding tight at the deadline. The Dodgers have strong all-around numbers, and their 30-10 record backs that up. With additional playoff spots possibly lowering the incentive for teams to sell, a big pickup for the Dodgers was no certainty.
One area that could’ve used additional support, however, was the starting pitching. The starters haven’t been bad, but they haven’t been the strong suit either. The team’s quality start percentage of 32%, for example, is above league average but still down from 49% last year. The rotation has thinned out, with minor injuries to Walker Buehler and Alex Wood in addition to David Price‘s season opt-out.
In any event, it seemed reasonable to expect Los Angeles to target starting pitching on the trade market. Lance Lynn of the Texas Rangers and Mike Clevinger of the Cleveland Indians, in particular, were two names heavily rumored in trade talks. Evidently, the price the Dodgers were willing to pay was never high enough to entice Texas or Cleveland into pulling the trigger.
These things made it all the more surprising when the Dodgers traded 30-year-old pitcher Ross Stripling to the Toronto Blue Jays in the final minutes before the deadline. Stripling, despite struggling early on, has embraced a more full-time role in the rotation this year. In a full-length season, he would be on pace for the most innings of his career. With the second most innings on the staff, he looked like a solid candidate to make the playoff rotation.
Surprising deadline strategy
Nonetheless, general manager Andrew Friedman, known for his unique and unexpected roster decisions, sent Stripling to the Blue Jays in exchange for two prospects, right-handed pitcher Kendall Williams and a player to be named later. Stripling will join former teammate Hyun Jin Ryu in Toronto as the Blue Jays compete for an American League playoff spot. Williams, a 2019 draftee who just turned 20, was the No. 13-ranked prospect in the Blue Jays system.
In fact, the Dodgers may have envisioned themselves as sellers all along. Despite being in first place, the team was actively shopping around at least three relievers, according to Jon Heyman. This unconventional approach speaks to the depth and wealth of talent within the organization.
Most interesting aspect of deadline: Dodgers are the best team ever to sell. Apparently they just have too many good players. Not only did they trade solid SP Ross Stripling but they shopped at least 3 MLB relievers (they ended up holding them). Indians a 2nd contender to sell
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) September 2, 2020
“We feel really good about the team that we have, and also the depth that we have behind it,” Friedman said regarding the trade deadline. “So our mindset was not to do something just to do something. We have guys on our 28-man roster who are deserving of playing time, and (we) didn’t want to block that unless it was someone really impactful.”
With the departure of Stripling, the Dodgers will count on lefties Wood and Julio Urias, youngsters Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin, and the power duo of Buehler and Clayton Kershaw to carry the team from here on out.
Division opponent gearing up
The San Diego Padres sent shock waves around the league by making a number of significant deadline acquisitions, most notably Clevinger from Cleveland. San Diego also brought in reliever Trevor Rosenthal and position players Mitch Moreland, Austin Nola, Jason Castro, and Greg Allen. This flurry of moves goes to show that the Padres are serious about competing in the postseason for the first time since 2006.
Despite San Diego’s boldness, the Dodgers still hold a six game lead in the division with three weeks remaining. Needless to say, a comeback of this magnitude seems unlikely for the Padres. But where things currently stand, the rivals are in position to face off in the second round of the playoffs. This matchup would be intriguing considering the teams’ vastly different trade deadline philosophies.
The Dodgers and Padres will meet once more, with a three game series in San Diego starting September 14. Los Angeles currently holds a 4-3 advantage on the season series.
After coming up empty handed on Monday, the Dodgers promptly silenced their critics by sweeping the Arizona Diamondbacks. With a commanding lead in the National League, they are showing no signs of slowing down.
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