By getting Darvish, the Dodgers are all-in to win
ATLANTA — Kenley Jansen was sound asleep on the Dodgers charter flight, unaware of the deal that was struck on the ground.
Nudged awake by rookie Edward Paredes, Jansen opened his eyes to the sight of a smiling David Vassegh, the host of the postgame talk show on the team’s flagship radio station. Vassegh delivered the news: The Dodgers had acquired Yu Darvish in a trade.
Jansen laughed Tuesday as he recalled that “where were you when …?” moment from the previous afternoon. Other players told their own stories. They should make it a point to remember them. These are lighthearted anecdotes that could be told for years to come, the kinds that are featured in documentaries on championship seasons.
The Dodgers made two monumental trades in the last decade,
both with the Boston Red Sox, acquiring Manny Ramirez at the 2008 nonwaiver trade deadline and adding Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford in a blockbuster waiver deal four years later.
On the surface, the trade for Darvish doesn’t have the same impact. In reality, it’s no less significant.
Ramirez transformed the Dodgers from a mediocre team to a World Series contender, his infectious personality and steroidfueled production catapulting what was a cashstrapped franchise back into prominence in a stardriven market dominated by the Lakers.
Gonzalez was a statement from the team’s new owners, who were desperate to separate themselves from the previous regime that nearly destroyed the franchise. This team would win and they would spend to win.
The addition of Darvish doesn’t mark a roster makeover, as the two other trades did. With the Dodgers owning the best record in baseball, it doesn’t have to.
This is about culture. This is about what the franchise stands for. And from that standpoint, this trade means as much as any the Dodgers have made in the last decade.
This was about Andrew Friedman, Farhan Zaidi and the other members of the front office announcing the Dodgers are ready to win — not next year, not in five years, not in 10. Now. The Dodgers will enter the playoffs as the overwhelming favorites. They were the fashionable choice in 2013, but not to this degree.
Trophies aren’t handed out for this. It’s nonetheless a distinction that should be celebrated.
For the first time in a generation, maybe longer, Angelenos can do more than hope the Dodgers will win the World Series. They can believe. Really believe.
Which is why, when Jansen was asked to compare this deal with the Gonzalez trade, he said without any hesitation, “I was more excited after this one.”
The Dodgers won’t have to count on another superhuman effort by Clayton Kershaw, which has almost been taken for granted in recent years. Joined by Darvish, Alex Wood and Rich Hill in the postseason rotation, Kershaw will be spared from making starts on three-days’ rest, something that has unquestionably affected his performance in October.
They have a No. 8 hitter with 19 home runs in Yasiel Puig. They have depth in their bullpen. This isn’t a team that will have to pray for a lucky break. As long as they aren’t struck by misfortune, they should be in every postseason game they play, regardless of the opponent. This is baseball and victory can never be guaranteed, but the Dodgers’ chances are far better than anyone else’s.
As was the case with the trade for Ramirez, there was an element of fortune factored into their landing Darvish.
Ramirez was disgruntled to the point of being disruptive, making the Red Sox so desperate to trade him they offered to pay the remainder of his salary. Then-owner Frank McCourt’s financial situation made that component a requirement.
The current front office’s requirement was that any potential deal for Darvish not include prospects Walker Buehler or Alex Verdugo. Again, the events conspired to make this possible.
A market for Darvish never developed, as four of the six division races were practically over. Wild-card contenders weren’t about to offer the Texas Rangers a substantial bounty for the chance to reach a play-in game.
The Dodgers became the Rangers’ sole option. In many other seasons, the inclination to hoard prospects would have cost the Dodgers the player they wanted. In this particular case, it helped them read the market correctly.
How the deal came together doesn’t matter. It happened and it said something. The players heard.
“The fact that the front office stepped up and did what they did at the deadline,” third baseman Justin Turner said, “means that they’re as serious as we are.”
And, just like that, a standard was established.