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It’s a somewhat frustrating result. Understandably the Dodgers needed very little improvements for a team that has the best record in baseball and a 15 game lead in the NL West. The lineup is elite. The starting rotation is very good. The bench is solid. The lone area of need was the bullpen, specifically middle relief and the Dodgers were unable to plug the gaping hole in their middle relief corp.
I understand that holding onto top prospects is a good thing. The Dodgers were unwilling to part with Gavin Lux, Dustin May or Tony Gonsolin. Lux may have gotten them Vazquez, but it’s possible the Pirates may have wanted more. Before you start to talk about Andrew Friedman not wanting to trade prospects understand that that’s not entirely accurate. Friedman has traded many prospects over the last several seasons for guys like Alex Wood, Manny Machado and Yu Darvish among others.
That’s not the issue. The issue is that the front office and ownership are simply not willing to make serious win now type moves in order to help solidify a championship. Machado was only acquired because Corey Seager was out and the only other win-now move you can point to is the Darvish deal which did not work out for the Dodgers. Look, I understand that it’s a tough predicament. If you trade Lux for Vazquez and he goes onto become an all-star with Pittsburgh and the Dodgers don’t win a World Series then the Dodgers look horrible. If the Dodgers don’t trade Lux and Yimi Garcia serves up several home runs in the late innings of the fall classic then the Dodgers look even worse. It’s a scenario where there are no guarantees.
That doesn’t mean the Dodgers shouldn’t take the risk. Look at the Astros. They’ve already gotten their ring and are vying for another championship. They’ve already rolled the dice getting Justin Verlander and acquiring Zack Greinke. They’ve had to trade away a big haul of prospects to do it, and it worked out fantastically for them. Greinke should work out well for them too, giving them a formidable rotation in October.
Do you think the Astros regret trading away prospects for Verlander? I would guess no. The Dodgers don’t need rotation help, they do however need a lot of bullpen help. Their bullpen is below average at best and Jansen is not what he used to be. Can the Dodgers win a World Series with a below average bullpen? Is Yimi Garcia or Baez the answer to Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa? Is Caleb Ferguson or Adam Kolarek able to retire Aaron Judge in the World Series? Is Dylan Floro the answer to Ronald Acuna Jr.? I’m going to guess no.
The Dodgers have a poor bullpen and without a lockdown or reliable reliever then it’s going to be difficult for them to hold late inning leads in October. Certainly Vasquez doesn’t guarantee a championship but having a shutdown reliever greatly improves their chances.
Sometimes you have to roll the dice if you want to take home a title. This isn’t all on Friedman either. Guggenheim has to take responsibility as well. Either you play it safe and rely on internal options, which aren’t very good, or you take a risk and flip a top prospect or two for an elite reliever that can shore up the glaring need on your roster. If the Dodgers want to win a championship now before their foundational players such as Clayton Kershaw, Justin Turner, and Kenley Jansen get too old, (they’re already getting old) then bold moves have to be made.
Lux and May are great, but championships are forever. If the Dodgers don’t win the World Series because of a poorly built bullpen then it’s squarely on the shoulders of Friedman, Stan Kasten and Mark Walter. Surely they can still win the World Series this year, but it’s going to be an uphill climb with a lackluster bullpen. If the Dodgers want to win a championship then they’re going to have to stop playing it safe and take some risks.