The National League West has teams that go for it. Up and down the division over the years, these teams have been willing to make bold moves before and during the season. The Los Angeles Dodgers are the team with the most resources to go big, of course, and they reminded the division just how much they can throw their weight around by trading for Manny Machado this week.
This is a bummer. I’m not sure there’s any need to go much further with an initial reaction to the deal. The 2018 version of the Dodgers was a flawed team thus far, with star players hurt and an unsteady performance that kept the division tight through the All-Star break. Now, at least at a gut level, it feels like they are the overwhelming favorites again.
If the Dodgers had lived up to expectations up to this point they could have left the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Rockies in their dust after each team’s respective very bad stretch this season. That the Rockies bottomed out in June and still climbed right back into the race with a winning streak in July speaks to the fact that the Dodgers haven’t been dominant.
So it was that the NL West felt kind of open. You don’t just replace Corey Seager, even with the emergence of a guy like Max Muncy. You’re supposed to struggle if Justin Turner can’t stay on the field or if Yasiel Puig gets hurt early in the season. Those are the things that combine to swing a season, and the Rockies had to see a potential opening to steal the division, even with their low playoff odds and the fact that the Diamondbacks are also in the hunt.
Manny Machado throws a major wrench in those plans. Baseball is a strange sport and it’s a uniquely team sport. It’s not wise to overstate the impact one player can have, and yet Machado is that rare player who could change everything. The 25-year-old is slashing .315/.387/.575 with 24 home runs and 65 RBI. His production has been good for a 164 OPS+ and 2.9 bWAR thus far. When Machado is good, he is MVP-level good.
Machado will primarily fill in at shortstop, which is about as close as you can get to actually replacing a guy like Seager. None of the other teams in the NL West would be able to make up for the loss of a star that way. The Diamondbacks wouldn’t be able to get that close to Paul Goldschmidt and the Rockies certainly wouldn’t be able to get that close to replacing Nolan Arenado (no disrespect to Pat Valaika or his soul patch).
Beyond the end of this season, the possibility of Machado remaining in the NL West just got real. From the Dodgers’ perspective, a good experience or even a World Series ring would be nice additions to the fact that they can already throw money around to sign a true superstar like Machado. The thought of Seager back at short alongside Machado at third base in years to come is a frightening one.
A move like this reminds us of the contrast between the Rockies and other teams in the division and around the league. And that’s not to say that’s a bad thing, by the way. For each Machado trade there might be a flop. Just ask A.J. Preller and the San Diego Padres how splashy moves can go belly up. But while the Dodgers and Diamondbacks made bids for the biggest trade chip available, the Rockies were always going to be operating on the fringes, whether as buyers or sellers, as they held their prospects close.
Whatever the particulars, the Rockies aren’t going to be the ones making the big trades unless something changes philosophically. They’ll spend money, but when it comes to parting with prospects, that’s just not they’re thing.
The Dodgers are rich in more ways than one. The money isn’t going anywhere. What makes them especially formidable in their current form is the fact that they also have a loaded farm system. It’s no guarantee they’ll keep that going, but as long as they have it there will be multiple ways for the rich to get richer.
Manny Machado on the Dodgers is the latest reminder of that fact.