The Dodgers’ Six Biggest Trade Acquisitions of the Last Six Years
5. Dodgers make a play for the biggest available pitcher, trade for Yu Darvish, August 2017
This was the trade every Dodger fan wanted but was too afraid to imagine because they felt that Friedman would not want to part with cost-controlled prospects. But the Dodgers got it done, and the baseball world took notice. Here’s MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick’s report on the Darvish deal:
"The bold upgrade of the pitching staff reaffirms management’s commitment to ending a World Series drought since 1988. The club didn’t trade any of its top three prospects as ranked by MLBPipeline.com — Walker Buehler, Alex Verdugo and Yadier Alvarez. “I think it will definitely be an emotional boost for the team, although it’s hard to say they need it,” said general manager Farhan Zaidi"
Arguably most exciting of any of the three rental deals of 2016, 2017, 2018, deadline deals because of how well the Dodgers were playing at the time of the trade, much of the baseball world said that this trade guaranteed the Dodgers a spot in the big dance in October.
Even though Darvish struggled mightily in the World Series, (memories that are too painful to dredge up again even in writing) he was very important in helping the Dodgers secure the best record in the National League and breeze through the NL playoffs.
In his nine regular season starts after the trade, Darvish struck out less than five batters only once, and nine or more three times, going 4-3 overall, though two of the losses were one-run games.
Darvish shined in the NLDS and NLCS in his starts against the Dbacks and the Cubs, respectively. At Arizona, Darvish hurled 5 two-hit innings of one-run ball with seven strikeouts in the 3-1 win. His Chicago start was even better, as Darvish lasted 6.1 innings in this outing, allowing just one run off of a solo shot and again striking out seven.
Things changed once he reached the World Series though. In his two World Series appearances, Darvish lasted just 1.2 innings each time, ceding 4 earned runs in each of the heart-breaking losses that knocked the Dodgers off of their pedestal.
After his shortcomings in the World Series, Dodger fans did not want to see him back for 2018, even though he loved his time in the city and with the team. Here’s what the LA Times reported about resigning Darvish all the way back in January 2018:
"The question isn’t whether they could do it. The question is why would they do it? Why would they want to do this to Dodgers fans? Why would they want to do this to Darvish? No reminder is necessary to anyone living within 1,000 miles of Chavez Ravine, but we’ll put it out there anyway. Many people believe Darvish cost the Dodgers last season’s World Series championship. If there’s one shoulder carrying the blame, it’s his. If there was an October villain, it’s him."
Darvish had no chance of returning to LA once the Cubs made him a generous pitch of 6 years and $126 million, and the Dodgers are fine with that now, but the team lost a fairly highly-ranked prospect in the trade, as they sent Willie Calhoun to Texas to complete the transaction.
Calhoun will be 24 next season, and to this point his best MLB season was last year, when the defensively-challenged slugger got 99 at-bats with the Rangers, hitting just 2 home runs with a .220 batting average. His hit-tool has been highly-touted for years now, and if the Rangers expect to contend in the future, they’ll need Calhoun to act on some of his lofty potential.
Even though Darvish would have come at a discount in 2018, the Dodgers seemed to have made the right move, saving their payroll for younger players and hopefully for a more fruitful 2019-20 winter off-season.