Dave Roberts was locked into Major League Baseball’s trade deadline on Tuesday.
“Man,” the Dodgers executive remarked after the deadline. “A lot has happened.”
Just not for his team.
While the San Diego Padres drastically changed their lineup around Juan Soto, other National League contenders like the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves made several notable additions to their big league rosters, and every club but the Colorado Rockies executed at least one a deal, the Dodgers remained relatively calm.
They were outbid for Soto, making a strong push with a promising bid but finishing second in the bid for the 23-year-old superstar outfielder.
They abandoned their pursuit of Miami Marlins starter Pablo López as an over-pitched market pushed his costs too high.
They couldn’t find the right price point in negotiations for other bigger-name options, such as Boston Red Sox hitter JD Martinez, a goal they pursued until the 3:00 p.m. cut-off time.
And in the end, the only real change was to effectively replace part-time outfielder Jake Lamb, who was traded to the Seattle Mariners, by taking a flyer about Joey Gallo, the former two-time All-Star who had fought for the New York Yankees and was only acquired for a pitching prospect.
“I feel good about how aggressively we tried to adjust to different things, the things that we ended up doing,” said Andrew Friedman, president of baseball operations.
But ultimately, he added, “I feel good about the team that we have in place and the way they have behaved … A lot of that comes from a particular dynamic that we have as well as from the talent that we have here and the talent coming back and the next two to six weeks.”
Of course, Friedman hasn’t been afraid of blockbuster deals in the past. As of that date, he acquired Yu Darvish in 2017, Manny Machado in 2018, and Max Scherzer and Trea Turner last year.
The calculation was different this season, however.
The Dodgers started the day with the best winning percentage in the majors and the best team pitching ERA, as well as the second most runs scored.
They had a 12-game division lead and were almost certain of making the playoffs.
They also didn’t feel like they had any obvious urgent needs, confident that a battered pitching staff will be near sanity early in the playoffs and the few struggling bats in the lineup will be heating up on the stretch.
“It’s the most expensive time of year to acquire players,” Friedman said. “I think maybe we were calm on the outside, but it was busy.”
The Dodgers’ biggest signing was Gallo, who was one of baseball’s most prolific left-handers early in his career with the Texas Rangers but has struggled since his loss to the Yankees last year.
In 82 games this season, the seven-year veteran — who will be a free agent in the offseason — hit just .159 with 12 homers, 24 RBIs, .621 on-base plus slugging percentage and 106 strikeouts in 273 plate appearances.
With the Dodgers, Gallo will likely serve in a pull role — he’s been slightly better against right-handers this season — and play defensively in left field, where the team is hoping the two-time Gold Glove player can make a difference, too.
“A year ago, he was worth a lot in the industry,” Friedman said. “The true level of talent remains… We believe there is real upside potential.”
Lamb, who had filled a similar role in recent weeks, was dealt to the Mariners on another move for either a later-named player or money considerations.
The Dodgers also traded big league fringe pitcher Mitch White to the Toronto Blue Jays for two pitching prospects — which helped clear space on the list for the litany of pitchers expected before the end of the season be removed from the 60-day injured list.
That injured group was another factor in Tuesday’s lack of activity for the Dodgers, whose only other notable move ahead of last week’s deadline was the acquisition of middle assist Chris Martin.
Walker Buehler, Dustin May, Blake Treinen, Tommy Kahnle, Danny Duffy and Victor González are all recovering from injuries.
And while Friedman conceded that the team “doesn’t rely on everyone to come back and be great,” they expect enough reinforcements — particularly from Buehler, May and Treinen — to bolster a pitching team that still looks like one of the For others, sport worked best.
“We feel really good about the potential of what our October pitching team can look like,” Friedman said.
Roberts felt the same way as did the entire team.
“I like the ball club we have,” he said. “And lest we somehow reach out to do something, I think everyone in this clubhouse understands.”
While the Dodgers are certainly not getting any worse, many of the sport’s other competitors could have gotten better quickly.
The Braves and Mets, already the second-best teams in the NL, have been beefing up their rosters in recent days. The Braves got reliever Raisel Iglesias, outfielder Robbie Grossman, and starter Jake Odorizzi. The Mets added Phillip Diehl to their bullpen and Darin Ruf, Tyler Naquin and Daniel Vogelbach to their bench.
Even the best AL teams made big strides. The Yankees snapped up pitcher Frankie Montas, outfielder Andrew Benintendi (who effectively replaced Gallo in their lineup), and relievers Scott Effross and Lou Trivino. The Houston Astros added hitters Christian Vázquez and Trey Mancini.
And then there were the Padres, who, alongside Soto, also added Josh Bell and Brandon Drury to their lineup with prolific hitters, as well as added the prolifically talented but recently inconsistent Josh Hader to their bullpen – giving them the kind of lineup and pitching -Depth bestowed that could challenge the Dodgers in a postseason series.
“They’ve made their team a lot better over the past few days,” confirmed Friedman. “We are looking forward to this competition.”
Roberts struck a similar note.
When asked if the gap between the Dodgers and the league’s other top teams had been closed, the manager didn’t disagree.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I didn’t think that, so that’s totally fair.”
And yet he retained complete confidence in the Dodgers’ present and future, confident that the Dodgers would keep themselves well-positioned for the remainder of this season and beyond by protecting most of their farm system and not forcing any trades they were for thought overpriced.
“I think if you look at the system, the assets, the players that we have left, we can do that,” Roberts said. “So that’s how we feel. We are feeling great with our ball club now for this year and looking to the future.”