Without declaring a winner yet in this already memorable 2017 World Series, it’s more than safe to say that both teams are thanking their lucky stars they took the big risk back at the two trade deadlines.
Teams can always use a trade. Of course, you have to balance a million different variables. What’s your ceiling? Your direction as a franchise? Are you a Contender? Wild Card winner at most? Can you afford a deal financially and/or giving up the prospects?
In the end, these two great teams have indeed met in the 113th edition of the Fall Classic. For the first time in nearly 40 years, two 100-game winning clubs are squaring off. The Dodgers, of course, won a league-best 104 games while Houston nabbed themselves 102 W’s.
Back in July, the Dodgers traded for what was presumed to be the biggest name on the market. In the non-waiver trade deadline period, he was one of if not the best starting pitchers to be had.
The impending free agent came with that familiar baggage that such a situation inspires but the Dodgers have both the resources and the winning culture to retain a player like Yu Darvish. With his upcoming unrestricted free agency, the deal for the capable ace didn’t cost them any of their elite prospects.
No Walker Buehler, Alex Verdugo or even Yadier Alvarez was necessary. They ended up trading one of their lower “top tier” prospects in Willie Calhoun, along with pitcher A.J. Alexy and infielder Brendon Davis to Texas for Darvish.
A no-brainer in hindsight, but it almost didn’t happen. Now, Darvish gives them a formidable right-handed arm in their lefty dominated rotation.
The 31-year old is having his best postseason yet, and the first where he’s been able to make multiple appearances. He lost both of his playoff decisions with the Rangers, but is 2-0 so far with the Dodgers, going five and six innings in his NLDS and NLCS starts respectively.
He’s given up just two runs in 11.1 innings, striking out 14. He’ll start game three Friday.
For Houston, they surprisingly went idle in their trade deadline conquest, instead waiting until the end of August to complete a waiver trade deadline deal for Justin Verlander. Now history, they waited until the final seconds to consummate the deal. (Reportedly two precious ticks of the clock were left when Verlander waived his no-trade clause.)
Houston, perhaps more so than the Dodgers, badly needed another big time pitcher. They certainly didn’t need offense. The Astros looked like champions on paper, minus another reliable starter next to Dallas Keuchel.
Verlander apparently wanted to be a Chicago Cub and it took some talking to to get him to sign off on heading south to Houston. But he did. And boy is he happy.
Like the Darvish deal, three players were traded for the lone veteran righty. To Detroit went pitcher Franklin Perez, outfielder Daz Cameron and catcher Jake Rogers.
Cameron and Rogers are respectable but secondary prospects like Alexy and Davis where Perez is the Calhoun of this deal. In a still pretty stacked farm system, John Sickels rated Perez as the fifth best prospect in the system entering 2017.
Francis Martes (number one) and Yuli Gurriel (four) have graduated and a PED suspension to David Paulino (three) make Perez’s outlook even more favorable.
Verlander came at a prospect price but also a financial price, but the time had come for Houston to pay it. Even with his hearty deal, the Astros will control the 2011 MVP and Cy Young Award winner through at least 2019.
They’ve certainly gotten what they paid for with the 34-year old ace. He stifled the Red Sox in the ALDS, winning game one as a starter and the clinching game four as a reliever.
He won twice more —both starts— in the ALCS against the Yankees, dominating game two and silencing a powerful New York lineup once again in game six. He allowed just a single run in the League Championship Series across 16 magnificent innings, striking out 21 while walking two and earning ALCS MVP honors.
While he didn’t win game two against the Dodgers on Wednesday evening and turned in his “worst” postseason effort of 2017, he delivered a quality start in six innings and will certainly be heard from again before this series sings its final notes.
In all, two risky maneuvers that seemed like absolute musts on the surface have turned out to be absolutely worth it. Whether it be Darvish or Verlander, one of these fresh faces in L.A. or Houston will be playing a big role in who lifts the 2017 crown.