Manny Machado wasn’t enough for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Tuesday afternoon, the Dodgers swung two trades before the 4:00pm EDT Major League Baseball trade deadline. One of those deals was for Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier, and the other was for Toronto Blue Jays reliever John Axford.
Dozier and Axford are both impactful additions to manager Dave Roberts‘ roster, but the addition of Dozier, in particular, makes the Dodgers the favorites to win the National League Pennant.
This season has been a rollercoaster for the Dodgers. Beginning the year 16-26, some were doubting whether the Dodgers would rekindle their heroics of years past and be able to make a deep playoff run. More concern grew when Clayton Kershaw hit the disabled list with a back injury. Fast forward 10 weeks, and the Dodgers are tied for first place in the National League West with the Arizona Diamondbacks at 60-49, and they have made some significant transactions in the last three weeks to bolster their team.
Three weeks ago, the Dodgers added perhaps one of the 10-best players in the sport in Machado. Machado’s addition fills a hole on the left side of the Dodgers infield which was created by third baseman Justin Turner going on the DL. Throw Dozier in their lineup and the middle infield position, and the Dodgers, as a whole, could take off.
This season has not been Dozier’s finest work of art, but the pedigree is there with the 31-year-old infielder. From 2015-17, he hit 104 home runs, was a vital part of the Twins offense, and is a very good fielding second baseman. Before acquiring Dozier, the Dodgers had been rolling with Logan Forsythe — who was hitting just .207 and struggling to hold his own in the field before being traded for Dozier — Chase Utley, and Enrique Hernandez at second. Now, is Dozier’s .226 average an enormous upgrade for the Dodgers at second? Of course not, it’s just a minor improvement in that regard, but who do you trust to have a better last two months of the season: Forsythe or Dozier?After acquiring Brian Dozier, the @Dodgers are clear favorites for the National League pennant. Click To Tweet
One month ago, the Dodgers had one of the worst lineups in the game, and there was little to be optimistic about in terms of their ability to turn the corner. But now they have two players who significantly improve their infield and make their lineup more dangerous.
While they went into Wednesday night 21st in team batting average (.242), the Dodgers were eighth in runs scored (506) and are getting contributions from some surprising individuals. Once considered a reunion done for the sake of dumping off bad contracts, Matt Kemp has been the Dodgers’ number-one source of offense. Hitting a team-high .298 to go along with 17 home runs and 64 RBIs going into Wednesday night, while holding his own in the field, Kemp has made himself a viable candidate for the National League Most Valuable Player of the Year Award. First-year Dodger Max Muncy has blasted a team-high 24 home runs and provided a power surge in the middle of their order.
Throughout Kemp and Muncy’s heroics, Cody Bellinger is hitting just .236, Turner is on the DL, and the Dodgers are collectively struggling to put runners on base; they’re finding ways to gut out games. At the same time, the Dodgers finding ways to win games isn’t solely because of their offense.
On the other side of Dodger Land is an elite pitching staff. The Dodgers have, when healthy, the best pitcher in the game in Kershaw, an improved Kenta Maeda, the steady Alex Wood, veteran Rich Hill, and the emerging Ross Stripling. Those five and the Dodgers staff, as a whole, went into Wednesday night second in team ERA (3.47). And after a rocky start to the season, closer Kenley Jansen has settled in and returned to being one of the game’s best closers.
Look around the NL West. Yes, the D-Backs and Colorado Rockies are legitimate playoff threats within the division for a second consecutive season, but both teams have a major flaw that is holding them back, and, at some point, may doom them. Despite having some big names in their order, the D-Backs went into Wednesday night 27th in team batting average (.235) and 26th in hits (864). Sure, they have one of the best starting rotations in the game, but their lineup’s inconsistency is a major area of concern.
The Rockies have arguably the worst all-around pitching staff in baseball. Going into Wednesday night, they were 23rd in team ERA (4.59) and 29th in bullpen ERA (5.12) despite spending over $80 million on that facet of their ballclub in the offseason. They have a fearsome lineup but with little to no reliable starting pitching behind it, the Rockies will struggle in pivotal postseason play.
The Dodgers have won the NL West in each of the last five years. They’ve played and found success in October, unlike the D-Backs and Rockies. They still haven’t hit their stride, but there’s no doubt this group can and will play better. Outside of the West, the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves have been captivating storylines this season, but both teams are made up of young talent and have been playing near .500 baseball over the last month. The Chicago Cubs are certainly an NL threat, but even with the addition of Cole Hamels, they have questions marks in their starting rotation. The Milwaukee Brewers have been playing better as of late, but it’s yet to be seen if this is the year their core gets over the postseason hump.
The Dodgers were finding themselves and trending in the right direction before they went out and acquired Machado. Then, they acquired Machado, and all doubt concerning their ballclub was erased. Now, they have Dozier. There’s no doubt that the Dodgers are the favorites to win the NL Pennant.