When executives need to work under restraints and don't have the luxury of wheeling and dealing or spending, fans can sympathize with that. How can a GM make a blockbuster trade if he inherited a weak farm system? How can a GM sign a top-tier free agent if ownership won't sign off on the financials?
But that shouldn't be life for teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers (and New York Yankees, New York Mets, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, etc.). Somehow, though, it's become a somewhat troubling reality.
Look at the Dodgers, for example. Sure, they've made some blockbuster moves, like trading for Mookie Betts, Manny Machado, Yu Darvish, Trea Turner and Max Scherzer as well as signing Freddie Freeman, but could we call any of those risks? They have nobody signed beyond 2025 outside of Betts and Freeman. They haven't signed a star pitcher since Zack Greinke.
All of those aforementioned blockbusters? The Dodgers really didn't overextend themselves. The Red Sox were trying to get rid of Betts and took a discount because the Dodgers were willing to eat David Price's remaining money. Machado was a brainless dump by a floundering Orioles regime that recieved five nothing prospects in return. Darvish, like Machado, was on an expiring contract and the centerpiece of the deal was Willie Calhoun. Turner and Scherzer were acquired for Keibert Ruiz and Josiah Gray, two top prospects the Dodgers knew they didn't need because they had endless depth behind them (they also somehow got Gray for free in the salary dump trade with the Cincinnati Reds). Paying Freeman $27 million a year? Anybody would do that.
Which leads us to surmise that Andrew Friedman and the front office have been hesitant to sign more and more big-name free agents and be more risk averse on the trade market ever since they traded Yordan Alvarez to the Astros for Josh Fields (and signed Trevor Bauer to a three-year, $102 million contract).
Did botched Yordan Alvarez trade spook Dodgers, Andrew Friedman ever since?
Just look at the names the Dodgers have been linked to in recent years but never acquired. The prices were deemed too steep on Pablo López and Jordan Montgomery? Really? You felt the need to waste time on Eduardo Rodríguez instead? You let your rivals acquire Juan Soto and Josh Hader, and then beat you in the playoffs? No interest in bringing Kyle Schwarber to town at the 2021 deadline or in free agency that winter? Didn't want to give up more prospects for Justin Verlander? Couldn't trade for Tommy Pham? Jake Burger?
And how about in free agency? Passed on Verlander again because of the price. Let Trea Turner and Corey Seager go. No interest in Dansby Swanson. Couldn't out-bid the Mets for Kodai Senga? Were Chris Bassitt and Nathan Eovaldi not considered? Marcus Semien? Kevin Gausman? Nick Castellanos? JT Realmuto? Zack Wheeler? Bryce Harper? Did we miss anybody?
We, of course, cannot predict these players fulfilling everything under the sun for the Dodgers, but has the alternative been better? The Dodgers downgraded heading into 2023 with no assurance they'd sign their rumored prized offseason targets in the coming months and will seemingly "run it back" for 2024. Somehow, the Dodgers have deconstructed a bonafide World Series contender -- said goodbye to Seager, Turner, Bellinger, Pederson, Hernandez, JT, and more -- to seemingly avoid "running it back," but are doing exactly that with a weaker postseason core and a roster filled with injury question marks? How did we get here?
Making the obvious signing or trade isn't always the sexiest, but it can very much be the right decision. Which players above did you foresee being an absolute bust beyond comprehension? Which one of those players would've made your blood boil annually because of inadequate production?
The answer is none! If you sign good players with a lengthy track record, it typically ends up working out. It might not be an historic match, but it helps put the pieces together for the bigger picture.
But it seems Alvarez becoming a postseason legend and one of the best lefty sluggers of his generation (as well as Bauer's embarrassing sunk cost) have played a role in the Dodgers being passive for the last two years. And their relative silence has even predated that because they had the luxury of a cost-effective core that they opted to not supplement as best they could've.
History is going to look back on the Dodgers' run from 2013 until whenever it ends and wonder why this group only captured one World Series -- and zero titles in a full 162-game season. And though Friedman is incredibly good at his job, some of his miscalculations and oversights might overshadow all the good he's done.
The Dodgers might trust their own process to a fault -- which is the case with the present-day Yankees -- but there's also a theory to be had that Alvarez's rise following one of Friedman's trades in his early years may have set this entire thing off course.