(Most Esoteric and Specifically Vindictive Guy Ever Voice) Um ... did the Dodgers just pull off another Phil Bickford coup?!
While 2021's shuffle that resulted in the ex-Giants top pick becoming a briefly reliable Dodgers reliever after leaving Milwaukee might not be a popular reference point for too much longer, it certainly seems like Andrew Friedman may have pulled another fast one on the Brewers in 2023.
Reliever Gus Varland -- brother of Twins starter Louie -- was drafted by the Oakland A's in 2018, but had been in the Dodgers system incubating since pre-2021, when he was involved in the Adam Kolarek/Sheldon Neuse "blockbuster." Left unprotected this offseason, the Brewers tried to nab him in the Rule 5; he eventually made the Opening Day roster and found some early big-league success, posting a 2.25 ERA in his first nine innings of work.
Then came the meltdown. Varland allowed nine earned runs in a single appearance against St. Louis, at which point the Brew Crew decided they'd rather cut their losses than continue the experiment. The righty was DFA'd the very next day, at which point he was ... returned to the Dodgers.
Back with Triple-A Oklahoma City, he spent June and July fitting back into his old digs before a mid-August promotion to LA put him back on a big-league mound ... against the Brewers. It was devilish grin season from thereon out, as Varland started strong in his second big-league chance against his now-former team and continued to build in two additional outings.
Dodgers reaping rewards after Gus Varland returned from Brewers
Varland was even solid at Fenway Park on Saturday when almost no one else was, surrendering an unearned run in a singular inning of work to add to his totals.
If the Dodgers get anything from Varland, it'll already be a bonus. Even these five strong innings should be considered a player development win, considering the Brewers' impatience (and tightly-wound roster) forced a DFA they wish they hadn't been cornered into pursuing.
This offseason, the hard-throwing Varland was considered one of the draft's most enticing possibilities, considering his blistering fastball and rising strikeout numbers. The Brewers prized him at pick No. 14, while many other teams passed on the Rule 5 altogether, given the high number of requirements for holding onto any player chosen.
Milwaukee gambled and lost. The Dodgers picked 'em up on the back end. Winners win.