Darvish ar­rives from Texas as Dodger fo­cus on end­ing World Se­ries drought

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Andy McCul­lough

AT­LANTA — When the Dodgers boarded the team plane Mon­day, they al­ready owned the best record in base­ball, the deep­est 40-man ros­ter in the sport and the short­est odds in the sport for end­ing their 28-sea­son World Se­ries drought.

As they flew across the coun­try, bound for a three-city trip start­ing in At­lanta, their front of­fice worked the phones, fi­nal­iz­ing plans to add a four­time All-Star start­ing pitcher.

In one of the more stun­ning moves in An­drew Fried­man’s three-year ten­ure as pres­i­dent of base­ball op­er­a­tions, the team swung a deal for Texas Rangers ace Yu Darvish in ex­change for three pitch­ing prospects. The deal was con­sum­mated only 15 min­utes be­fore the non-waiver dead­line, with the Dodgers agree­ing to send

triple-A in­fielder Wil­lie Cal­houn, Class-A pitcher A.J. Alexy and Class-A in­fielder Bren­don Davis to the Rangers.

Darvish, 6-9 with a 4.01 earned-run av­er­age this sea­son, pro­vides right-handed bal­ance to a ro­ta­tion fronted by the left-handed trio of Clayton Ker­shaw, Alex Wood and Rich Hill. Darvish can re­duce the Oc­to­ber stress on Ker­shaw, who is re­cov­er­ing from a lower back strain. And his ar­rival pro­vides psy­chic up­lift for a team that stormed through July with a 20-3 record.

“I think it will def­i­nitely be an emo­tional boost for the team,” gen­eral man­ager Farhan Zaidi said dur­ing a con­fer­ence call. “It’s hard to say they needed it, the way we’ve been play­ing.”

The Dodgers do not need Darvish to cap­ture a fifth con­sec­u­tive Na­tional League West ti­tle. They lead the Ari­zona Di­a­mond­backs by 14 games. They have not lost a se­ries since the first week of June. This is not a reprise of last sum­mer, when they added Hill and Josh Red­dick to get into the play­offs. As a pend­ing free agent, Darvish was ac­quired to win a cham­pi­onship.

“Ev­ery team wants to load up with as many start­ing pitch­ers they feel good start­ing play­off games as pos­si­ble,” Zaidi said. “Hav­ing four is cer­tainly bet­ter than hav­ing three.”

The Dodgers could ex­ult in both the ac­qui­si­tion of Darvish and the re­ten­tion of their best prospects. Through­out the process, the Dodgers in­formed other clubs they would pre­fer not to part with their top two mi­nor lea­guers, triple-A pitcher Walker Buehler and triple-A out­fielder Alex Ver­dugo. They held that stance as they ne­go­ti­ated with Texas for Darvish, while main­tain­ing di­a­logue with the Bal­ti­more Ori­oles about re­liever Zach Brit­ton and the San Diego Padres about re­liever Brad Hand.

Nei­ther Brit­ton nor Hand was traded, and the Dodgers reaped the ben­e­fits of their front of­fice’s pa­tience and its com­mit­ment to stock­pil­ing prospects.

“There were cer­tain guys that we were re­ally re­luc­tant to talk about in trades,” Zaidi said. “We gave up some guys we val­ued and we cringed a lit­tle in giv­ing up, but ob­vi­ously we felt the three guys we ac­quired were all re­ally im­por­tant ac­qui­si­tions for our as­pi­ra­tions this sea­son.”

Darvish over­shad­owed the ac­qui­si­tion of two left­handed re­liev­ers. The Dodgers traded for Pitts­burgh Pi­rates vet­eran Tony Wat­son in ex­change for Class-A pitcher An­gel Ger­man and Class-A in­fielder Oneil Cruz. They also shipped long-time re­serve Scott Van Slyke, along with Class-A catcher Hen­drik Cle­mentina, to the Cincin­nati Reds for Tony Cin­grani. Wat­son’s ERA is 3.66, Cin­grani’s 5.40.

Zaidi noted Wat­son’s in­creased ve­loc­ity in re­cent weeks. He sug­gested that Cin­grani could ben­e­fit from an al­ter­ation in his strat­egy, as Josh Fields ben­e­fited af­ter ar­riv­ing from the Hous­ton Astros last sum­mer. And Buehler could join the bullpen in Septem­ber.

Darvish does not ar­rive with­out risk. He sat out the 2015 sea­son af­ter un­der­go­ing el­bow liga­ment re­place­ment surgery. And he will join the Dodgers at a low ebb.

Darvish has not pitched since giv­ing up 10 runs against the Mi­ami Mar­lins last Wed­nes­day. In the af­ter­math, Ya­hoo Sports re­ported that Darvish tipped his pitches dur­ing the game. Darvish thanked the re­porter on Twit­ter for writ­ing the story. Mem­bers of the Mar­lins have in­sisted they were not re­liant on Darvish’s tele­graph­ing any­thing on the mound, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the sit­u­a­tion.

Ei­ther way, the Dodgers were not dis­mayed by Darvish’s re­cent per­for­mance. Even be­fore the meltdown against the Mar­lins, Darvish had pro­duced a 4.78 ERA in four July starts.

“The qual­ity of his stuff has been there, the ve­loc­ity, the break­ing ball,” Zaidi said. “His health has been good. We’re not con­cerned.”

The pres­ence of Darvish also re­duces pres­sure on Ker­shaw for Oc­to­ber. Ker­shaw has pitched on three days of rest in the first round in the play­offs in each of the last four sea­sons. He ap­peared four times in a nine­day span last Oc­to­ber, in­clud­ing three starts, as he re­cov­ered from a her­ni­ated disk. Ker­shaw also pitched three times in nine days dur­ing the 2013 play­offs.

The deal al­lowed the Dodgers to keep pace with their Na­tional League ri­vals. The Chicago Cubs ac­quired starter Jose Quin­tana two weeks ago and added left­handed re­liever Justin Wil­son on Sun­day. The Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als re­paired their bullpen with the ad­di­tion of re­liev­ers Sean Doolit­tle and Ryan Mad­son ear­lier in July, be­fore swing­ing a last-minute swap for Min­nesota Twins All-Star re­liever Bran­don Kint­zler on Mon­day.

The Dodgers de­liv­ered their an­swer at the 11th hour.

“It’s cer­tainly for­tu­nate we got it done,” Zaidi said. “It did come down closer to the wire, from a qual­ity of life and stress stand­point, then I think any­body had hoped.”

Richard W. Ro­driguez Associated Press

NEW­COMER YU DARVISH, late of the Texas Rangers, is ex­pected to pro­vide right-handed bal­ance to a Dodgers ro­ta­tion fronted by the left-handed three­some of Clayton Ker­shaw, Alex Wood and Rich Hill.

Char­lie Riedel Associated Press

YU DARVISH strug­gled in his most re­cent start, giv­ing up 10 runs against the Mi­ami Mar­lins last Wed­nes­day. He sat out the 2015 sea­son af­ter el­bow surgery.

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