Re-grading the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 2021 trade deadline
The 2021 Los Angeles Dodgers fell to the team-of-destiny Atlanta Braves in the NLCS, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort. Injuries mounted, the depth was tested, and players who didn’t deserve a single playoff rep saw games worth of action.
Andrew Friedman’s action at the trade deadline attempted to prevent such a scenario, but when three out of your four deadline acquisitions aren’t present for all of October … you’ve got yourself a major problem.
Now, after the dust has settled and there’s been a larger sample size leading up to this year’s trade deadline to offer a better evaluation of Friedman’s previous dealings, fans continue to talk about how everything shook out for LA.
Some of the deals had no impact, some of them have had a lasting one, and one was short-lived but ended on a sour note.
And not to be too harsh, but Friedman definitely needs to do a little better this time around if the Dodgers want to make a deep playoff run, because the depth issues have reared their ugly head early in 2022, proving that the same shortcomings will likely befall the Dodgers come October if they’re not properly addressed.
Re-grading the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 2021 trade deadline moves
- Trade No. 1: Dodgers acquire OF Billy McKinney from Mets for minor-league OF Carlos Rincon
Billy McKinney far from made an impact with Los Angeles, but he filled in admirably on defense, logging 24 total games (23 in right and one at first base) without making a single error. At the time, the Dodgers just needed bodies with Cody Bellinger struggling, Mookie Betts in and out of the lineup with a hip issue, and guys like Matt Beaty, Luke Raley and Zach McKinstry underperforming. McKinney contributed next to nothing on offense, though.
As for Rincon, he’s in his age-24 season and just reached Triple-A for the Mets, but has struggled after splitting time in Double-A between LA and NY last year. The Dodgers have better outfield prospects, so this wasn’t a loss. Overall, though, this was a whole lot of nothing
- Trade No. 2: Dodgers acquire SP Max Scherzer and SS Trea Turner from Nationals for top two prospects SP Josiah Gray and C Keibert Ruiz
This was the mother of all blockbusters, as the Dodgers replaced their rotation losses with one of the best in the game in Scherzer and both made their lineup even more fearful and prepared for Corey Seager’s eventual free agency departure by grabbing Trea Turner.
In return, the Dodgers sent top pitching prospect Josiah Gray and prized catching prospect Keibert Ruiz to the nation’s capital. This one worked out for both sides. Gray is working on becoming a member of the rebuilding Nationals’ rotation and Ruiz already looks like a future franchise cornerstone.
The Dodgers got 1.5 years of Turner in this deal, and he’s now the starting shortstop after Seager left. Though he got off to a slow start in 2022, he’s back on track. In 2021, he finished the year strong with the Dodgers, but faltered in the postseason. It happens.
Though LA fell short in the NLCS (where Scherzer wasn’t available to pitch in Game 6 after the Game 2 loss), he went an unreal 7-0 with a 1.98 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in 11 regular season starts and he closed out Game 5 of the NLDS against the Giants. Can’t ask for much more than that.
- Trade No. 3: Dodgers acquired P Danny Duffy from Royals for P Zach Willeman
Luckily, Friedman didn’t part with an asset here, but he did inherit an unreasonable amount of money for a much-needed player that ended up not stepping on the field at all for the Dodgers in 2021. Duffy never came back from dealing with a flexor strain in his throwing elbow, eventually underwent surgery, and was then re-signed by LA in the offseason despite the fact he won’t be ready until the second half.
Anybody want to make sense of this?! The Dodgers gave him $3 million this year and picked up the remaining ~$5 million on his 2021 salary for zero innings. Again, that’s $8 million and ZERO innings.
The only way this move can be justified is if Duffy returns and is a key cog in the bullpen down the stretch with all the losses the Dodgers have suffered so far. However, this cannot get even an average grade, because money is being spent and there’s absolutely nothing coming back in return.
This time around, there can’t be any Cs or Ds. Friedman likely knows that. So here’s to hoping the 2022 deadline is a tad better.