The Dodgers just did something the St. Louis Cardinals wouldn’t do: they pushed the pedal all the way down. Now the Cardinals and the NL should be scared.
Last night was truly a whirlwind of players flying around within about a 15-minute time frame. Sadly, none of it involved the St. Louis Cardinals. Not that fans are all that surprised as even though the team was allegedly interested in acquiring All-Star outfielder Mookie Betts earlier in the offseason.
Of course, it was Mookie Betts who was traded and it was in a monster of a deal. Mookie Betts was paired with David Price and shipped to the Dodgers. In return, the Dodgers sent outfielder Alex Verdugo to the Red Sox and Kenta Maeda to the Twins. Then the Twins sent pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol to the Red Sox.
The Red Sox pulled themselves under the luxury tax threshold and are still paying for half of David Price’s contract, but the biggest benefit for them was payroll flexibility. They also get a projectable starter and outfielder. The Dodgers add $40M to their payroll, a perennial MVP candidate, and a solid starter in Price. The Twins get a proven and cheap starter.
The Dodgers weren’t done though as they then turned around and sent Joc Pederson and a prospect across the city to the Angels for a middle infielder, Luis Rengifo.
All of this action happened in about 20 minutes and the dust is still settling. The first thought is that the return for Betts was light, but that is what happens when everyone knows you are trying to cut salary.
The other big thing to realize is, the Dodgers are really really scary. It obviously doesn’t mean they have the 2020 World Series trophy being delivered right now, but a team that won 106 games last season just added an MVP candidate without giving up their top two prospects.
That looks pretty good. And by pretty good, I mean that that lineup looks like the best lineup in the National League. By far.
This represents a very big difference in strategy from what the Cardinals are currently doing, and that puts a lot of pressure on the younger players on the Cardinals and on the team as a whole. It doesn’t do as much for the rest of the NL outside of the NL West, but in a league where the top-end teams keep getting better and better, a World Series run has to go through them.
This thread from Ben Fredrickson is a very interesting discussion. As he mentions, the Cardinals always try and get to the playoffs. Get in, you never know what could happen. For the Dodgers, they have shown a track record much more in line with trying to win the World Series. Before you bash the Cardinals, think about how well that has worked for them.
Sure, they’ve made the playoffs a lot recently, but their last World Series win was all the way back in 1988. The highest payroll does not equal the most World Series titles. This year could be different, but last time I checked, the Cardinals made it further in the playoffs than the Dodgers last year despite winning 15 fewer games in the regular season.
The Postseason is always a different animal and I am not mad with the Cardinals strategy. It will be stressed this year by the Dodgers though.
There are lots of outside factors that go into the Dodgers spending so much money. They are in a much bigger market and have to compete with a lot more sports and teams to gain the attention of their audience. The two teams are in two different financial environments.
For those of you yelling into the void that the Cardinals should’ve traded for Betts, let’s try and make a comp.
First of all, Miles Mikolas is close performance-wise to Maeda, but not salary-wise. To offset that, the Cardinals would have to pay more of Price’s salary. For Verdugo, a not-so-great comp would be Tommy Edman. Verdugo has a much higher ceiling than Edman even though Edman technically had a better offensive season than Verdugo.
Assuming it was still a three-team trade, that’s all the Cardinals would have to give up. Honestly, that’s a pretty bad comp and in reality, there is no comparative trade that the Cardinals could’ve come up with to match what the Dodgers gave up. On top of it all, the Cardinals would have to take on more than $43M in payroll between Betts and Price which they just wouldn’t do.
It wasn’t realistic from the beginning given the financial goals of both the Cardinals and the Red Sox.
The recency of this trade may make you feel pessimistic about the Cardinals and envious of Dodgers fans, but just give it time and let the season play out. Just get into the playoffs and magic can happen.
As far as how this trade could change the dynamic of the National League or affect other trades, the Rockies may decide quickly that a rebuild is a way to go, clearing the way for that coveted Nolan Arenado trade. If nothing else, the weeks where the Dodgers are on the schedule may be less fun but at the end of the day, it doesn’t guarantee anything for them.
It does make them scary though.
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The Dodgers may win 110+ games in 2020, but it doesn’t guarantee them anything more than the Cardinals. It’s good that they aren’t in the same division as the Cardinals, the tone of this article would be much different if the Cardinals had to play the Dodgers 18 times a year. Be angry, be disappointed, it won’t change the way the St. Louis Cardinals do business.