One of the hardest decisions for a front office in sports is the choice of pushing to win now versus balancing long-term success.
At this past week’s Major League Baseball non-waiver trade deadline, the Los Angeles Dodgers faced this question when deliberating whether to make a trade for the Rays, now Tigers, stud starter David Price.
As currently constructed the Dodgers have a pretty strong argument for being the most talented team in the National League. Clayton Kershaw is the top pitcher in the game and Yasiel Puig is near the top of the list for outfielders. The starting rotation is filled out with two other extremely high level starters in Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Puig gets help from Hanley Ramirez, Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, Dee Gordon, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford. Loads and loads of talent.
Los Angeles’ farm system was ranked 14th before the season started by baseball prospectus. If they wanted to acquire Price they would have needed to deal at least one and maybe some combination of highly touted shortstop Corey Seager, outfielder Joc Pederson or lefty pitcher Julio Urias. Despite the success all three players are having at lower levels there is still an unknown to how it will translate in MLB.
Adding David Price to Kershaw, Greinke and Ryu would have created an incredible foursome within the Dodgers starting staff. There’s no argument against Los Angeles being a better team right now if they completed a deal.
That being said I think general manager Ned Colletti made the right move not chasing the flashy acquisition.
The Dodgers are talented, but they’re also old and need an influx of youth on the roster. Ramirez is 30 and an unrestricted free agent after this season. If some team is going to hand him a five or six-year deal for over $100 million as he goes through his declining years it makes sense for Los Angeles to move on even with the ridiculous amount of money they have access to.
Ethier, Gonzalez and Crawford are all 32 years old. Ethier and Crawford are signed through 2017 (player option for 2018 for Ethier), while Gonzalez is locked up through 2018.
Kemp is slightly younger at 29 — but with an extensive injury history — and is signed through 2019 when he will be in his mid 30’s.
These are not cheap contracts either. I would argue they’re nearly unmovable in any sort of trade barring some sort of crazy circumstances or picking up large chunks of money in the deal. The only two long-term building blocks from a positional perspective are Puig and Gordon.
The 20-year-old Seager could be LA’s starting shortstop next season. As Crawford, Ethier and Kemp continue to decline and see their roles decreased, the 22-year-old Pederson is likely to be called in 2015-2016 as the next man up.
These are the type of pieces that can help the Dodgers be a long-term sustainable success story if they pan out instead of chasing replacements for exuberant amounts of money in a barren free agent market.
From a rotation perspective the Dodgers shouldn’t need Price to advance to the World Series. Los Angeles played 10 games across the NLDS and NLCS last season. In those two series they used Ricky Nolasco, their four starter, once. Kershaw, Greinke and Ryu started the nine other contests.
Colletti put his faith in that trio. It’s their job to deliver the Dodgers their first World Series appearance since 1988.