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Nightengale: Dodgers’ Darvish Deal All but Ensures Long-Awaited October Glory

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Texas Rangers starting pitcher Yu Darvish throws against the Miami Marlins in the first inning at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Wednesday, July 26, 2017. Photo: Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News

The Los Angeles Dodgers, tired of division titles and bored by regular-season dominance, did something really zany Monday on the final day of baseball’s trade deadline.

They went all-in in the pursuit of a World Series.

Really.

The Dodgers, having spent years hoarding prospects as if every one of them would turn out to be the next Sandy Koufax or Duke Snider, swallowed hard and traded a half-dozen of them away.

It should work out quite well, considering the kids they traded away wouldn’t have been old enough to drink anyway when the Dodgers pop the bubbly after winning this year’s World Series.

The Dodgers, at 74-31, are the best team in baseball and on pace for 114 wins. They could close 26-31 and still win 100 games for the first time in 43 years.

Sorry, but a fifth consecutive National League West title wouldn’t be good enough. Not for this magical team. Not for a team that has 31 comeback victories and nine walk-off wins.

So Dodgers President Andrew Friedman decided to trigger his own walk-off, acquiring Texas Rangers four-time All-Star Yu Darvish at the non-waiver trade deadline buzzer, an hour after already grabbing left-handed relievers Tony Watson from Pittsburgh and Tony Cingrani from Cincinnati.

Yes, just in case you wondered, L.A. is all in, baby.

“I think it will definitely be an emotional boost for the team,” Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi said on a conference call. “It’s hard to say they need it.”

It came at a cost, with the Dodgers trading away three of their prospects in outfielder Willie Calhoun, ranked fourth-best, pitcher A.J. Alexy (17), and infielder Brendon Davis (29). They also traded away three more prospects and outfielder Scott Van Slyke in their Watson and Cingrani deals.

Still, they hung onto the gems of their system, right-hander Walker Buehler and outfielder Alex Verdugo, didn’t trade a single player off their 25-man roster, and can now go ahead and line up their playoff rotation.

They have such a collection of riches, you wonder who can actually stop them from winning their first World Series since 1988.

Sure, no one’s saying that Darvish is Orel Hershiser, not in a season in which he’s gone just 6-9 with a career-worst 4.01 ERA, giving up 10 earned runs in his last start. Still, this is a big-time ace who realizes that performing well down the stretch, and bringing a World Series to L.A., can add a few more zeroes to his next contract when he becomes a free agent in November.

The Dodgers can now line up three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, who can rest with ease until October, Darvish, Alex Wood (12-1, 2.38 ERA), and whoever happens to be feeling the best that day for the fourth start. Gone are the days the Dodgers have to use Kershaw, who’s on the DL with lower back pain, three times in nine days as he did during the 2013 and 2016 playoffs.

Why, considering the depth in their bullpen now, there may be no reason for a starter to worry about pitching longer than six innings, with All-Star closer Kenley Jansen able to take care of the final two innings himself.

While the Dodgers were the overwhelming winner of the day in the NL, the New York Yankees re-captured that Evil Empire magic in the American League, leaving Fox Sports executives dreaming of a World Series ratings bonanza.

The Yankees grabbed Oakland Athletics ace Sonny Gray, which already comes on the heels of already acquiring closer David Robertson, reliever Tommy Kahnle, and third baseman Todd Frazier. Oh, and to make their gift bag even bigger, the Boston Red Sox traded for New York Mets closer Addison Reed, but stopped. And the only position player the Red Sox added to their struggling offense this month was utility infielder Eduardo Nunez from the San Francisco Giants.

“I don’t really think we were close to doing anything else,’’ Red Sox GM Dave Dombrowski told Boston reporters. “We didn’t feel there were any impact bats to make us better.’’

Indeed, strangely enough, the only major-league position player dealt Monday was infielder Adam Rosales, who was sent from the A’s to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The only thing more bizarre was the Houston Astros’ inactivity. They went into the trade deadline badly wanting a starting pitcher and a left-handed reliever. They instead chose a hybrid. They acquired struggling starter Francisco Liriano of the Toronto Blue Jays, 6-5, 5.88 ERA, and announced he would pitch in the bullpen.

And, oh yeah, while the Astros were trying to explain the Liriano move, they announced that No. 2 starter Lance McCullers is returning to the disabled list with back discomfort. It’s the same injury that send him on the DL in June, only returning to yield a 7.45 ERA in six starts.

The Astros, at 68-36, decided to steal a page out of the Dodgers’ old playbook.

They stood pat, refusing to trade their prospects.

“We have a good team,’’ Astros veteran Carlos Beltran said. “We’re in first place. At the end of the day, the GM is the one that dictates the move they have to make.

“Any acquisition is just a plus.’’

Yet, as the Dodgers players can tell you, if you don’t make that big move, that pendulum can make an ugly turn the other direction.

We’ll know in the next few months how these moves influence the playoffs. We’ll know in years whether the prospects traded will have an impact in the major leagues.

We also just may know just what it feels for baseball to be played at Chavez Ravine in late October, resurrecting Dodger glory of yesteryear, when they celebrated actual pennants and World Series championships, and not playoff berths.

It’s about time.

By Bob Nightengale

This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, USA Today. Follow Bob Nightengale on Twitter and Facebook

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