For what seems like the past umpteen seasons, the Dodgers have been minor buyers in front of the trade deadline, eschewing the biggest names in favor of a practice many like to call "prospect hugging." It's served the 2017 Dodgers well, because they never traded guys like Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger or Joc Pederson (Julio Urias was also an untouchable for years, but he's injured this season) for a rental like Cole Hamels or David Price.
This season feels like it should be different, though, right? The Dodgers are one of the best teams in baseball history at this point in the season, sitting at 72-31. After four straight NL West titles, yet zero NL pennants, it would seem like the time to go "all in" would be now.
Instead, this report surfaced on Saturday morning:
Source: Dodgers are "bargain hunting" and appear unwilling to part with any top prospects. Would certainly impact their chances at Darvish.— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) July 29, 2017
Obviously, it goes both ways here. If the Dodgers don't go all out and then lose in the playoffs, Andrew Friedman's front office will be criticized. If they do and still fail, and then any prospects they gave up flourish, they'll be criticized as well.
Still, now really feels like the time to abandon the cautious approach. The Royals added rentals in Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist and won the World Series in 2015. The Cubs went with Aroldis Chapman and won it all last year. Flags fly forever, so no one rooting for either team in their right mind will ever complain about those moves.
The Dodgers have already graduated most of their elite-level prospects, but they still have a few. On Baseball America's midseason top 100, they have Nos. 17 (Walker Buehler), 35 (Alex Verdugo), 60 (Yadier Alvarez) and 74 (Willie Calhoun).
Buehler is a 23-year-old right-hander. He started the year in high Class A but has been promoted to Triple-A recently. In between, most of his work was in Double-A, where he had a 3.49 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 64 strikeouts in 49 innings. He does have big upside, so it's understandable that the Dodgers don't wanna cough him up.
Verdugo, 21, is a lefty-swinging outfielder. He's hitting .328/.399/.443 with 20 doubles, four triples, four homers and eight steals in Triple-A's hitter-happy Pacific Coast League.
Alvarez, 21, is a 6-foot-3 righty with a 5.26 ERA and 1.51 WHIP between high Class A and Double-A this season. He has struck out 66 in 63 1/3 innings, though.
Calhoun, a 22-year-old lefty swinging second baseman, is hitting .299/.353/.579 with 24 doubles, five triples and 23 homers in Triple-A.
As can be seen, several of the players in this group would be attractive to would-be sellers in front of the trade deadline, but the report makes it sound like the Dodgers won't trade any of these guys. As you have to give something to get something, that would mean the Dodgers are only looking improve this club on the periphery.
With a 72-31 record (a full-season pace of 113 wins), they're probably still good enough to win the World Series without any significant additions, but postseason series are a different animal than the regular season. Some people might believe the Dodgers aren't being aggressive enough. If the Dodgers don't make a big addition and then fail again in the postseason, those voices will only get louder.