Just when it looked like the Los Angeles Dodgers were out of possible moves to make in trying to improve a team that both won 106 games last year and somehow disappointed, the Boston Red Sox decided it was time to pack things up for 2020 and deal away one of the best players in baseball.
After whiffing on Gerrit Cole, and Anthony Rendon, and Stephen Strasburg, and a number of other major free agents, the Dodgers completed a trade to acquire 2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts, plus left-handed starter David Price.
With Betts aboard, the Dodgers are the terror of the National League again, a team boasting both the best top-line talent and the best depth in the league. They might have already been the NL’s top team, but a move like acquiring Betts accomplishes what has become even more important for the organization: showing it’s ready to rise above a status quo that is both enviable for many teams and maddening for fans awaiting their first World Series parade since 1988.
The Dodgers lineup is so, so stacked now
Going to Boston and the Minnesota Twins, respectively, will be promising young outfielder Alex Verdugo and versatile right-hander Kenta Maeda. Outfielder Joc Pederson will also reportedly be sent to the Los Angeles Angels in a separate deal to make way for Betts.
Losing a talent like Verdugo and a contract like Maeda’s would be tough for any team, but you can see why it’s worth it with just a quick glance at the Dodgers’ possible opening day lineup:
Corey Seager, SS
Mookie Betts, RF
Justin Turner, 3B
Cody Bellinger, CF
Max Muncy, 1B
AJ Pollock, LF
Gavin Lux, 2B
Will Smith, C
Clayton Kershaw, LHP
Let’s try to find a hole in there. Is it Smith, the former top-100 prospect who slashed .253/.337/.571 in limited action last year? Lux, currently ranked the No. 2 prospect in all of baseball by MLB Pipeline? Pollock, a former All-Star who was hurt for half the season last year but was still an above-average hitter? OK, it’s probably Pollock, but the Dodgers are, as always, stocked to the gills with bench options that can cover left field.
That’s the bottom of the Dodgers’ lineup. The top of it features five All-Stars for five spots, including two recent MVPs. Add a rotation headlined by Kershaw and Walker Buehler, and it’s easy to think the Dodgers are headed back to 100-win territory again.
To add that final piece in Betts, the Dodgers gave up no current top 100 prospects (Verdugo was there in the past) and only had to take on about half of Price’s remaining contract, while also getting Price — a pretty good pitcher when healthy — in the deal. They still have one of the best farm systems in baseball to go with the 26-man roster.
The Dodgers aren’t without questions — the bullpen is basically a cupboard of lottery tickets and a possibly declining Kenley Jansen — but having breathing room in both their division and league, and the minor league assets to make a trade, sets up this year’s Dodgers team as well as any of their recent (very successful) squads.
Per MGM, the Dodgers now have the second-best odds to win the 2020 World Series at 4:1, behind only the Yankees at 5:2. The next closest NL teams are the Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals at 12:1, while the other three 100-win teams from last year — the Yankees, Twins and Houston Astros — will fight things out in the AL.
Odds equaling a 20 percent chance of winning it all might sound low, but such is the variance of baseball. The Dodgers have certainly learned that in the last three years, averaging more than 100 wins with no World Series titles to show for it. At least they’ll be able to say they did something different this year, no matter what happens.
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