The Dodgers whiff and the Padres win at the trade deadline

FILE - Washington Nationals' Juan Soto celebrates his home run during the eighth inning of baseball against the Atlanta Braves on July 17, 2022, in Washington.  The San Diego Padres acquired superstar outfielder Juan Soto from the Nationals on Tuesday, August 2, 2022, in one of baseball's biggest deals at the trade deadline, boosting their postseason chances by adding one of the best young players in the game.  (AP Photo/Nick Wass, FIle)

Juan Soto celebrates a home run during the eighth inning against the Atlanta Braves on July 17 in Washington. The San Diego Padres acquired the superstar outfielder from the Washington Nationals on Tuesday. (Nick Wass/Associated Press)

It was Trade Deadline Day, otherwise known as Andrew Friedman Appreciation Day, a day that is usually accompanied by the popping of corks and the slapping of backs.

Still, for a Dodgers organization that generally rules out any out-of-the-park trades, Tuesday was filled with a strange, lonely sound.

It was the knock of a knock.

This time, Goliath did not plunder. This time, the rich didn’t get richer. This time, the mighty Dodgers got, well, Padre’d.

Is it a word? It should be.

Allowing themselves to be outbid by their neighbors in San Diego for the great, young Juan Soto, the Dodgers acquired the Padres.

Failing to acquire a capable arm beyond middle reliever Chris Martin while their friends in San Diego traded for baseball’s best in Josh Hader, the Dodgers got Padre’d.

By acquiring another underwater hitter in Joey Gallo, while their friends in San Diego steadily added Josh Bell, the Dodgers got Padre’d.

No, the Dodgers aren’t going to blow their double-digit National League West lead on this second team in the funny uniforms. The Dodgers have the best pitching staff in baseball and the second-ranked offense. They don’t fold. Yes, the Dodgers can still win the World Series with their current roster, and they probably should.

But make no mistake, this trade opens a three-year window on the Padres’ championship hopes, with the 23-year-old Soto under club control for three pennant games. At the same time, it slightly closes the window on a Dodgers team that this winter will get a little bigger, a little creaky and could lose one of their co-MVPs, Trea Turner, to free agency.

And what if … this October … the Padres survive the new wild-card round and somehow meet the Dodgers in the division or league championship series? And what if they play a game that wins everything?

The Dodgers will be led by their world-class foursome of Mookie Betts, Turner, Freddie Freeman and Will Smith. But the Padres can now fight back with a foursome of Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado, Soto and Bell.

The Dodgers have the starting pitching advantage, but not by much, especially when you consider that their Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw is fragile, their ace Walker Buehler is injured, their fan favorite Julio Urías is inconsistent and their standout Tony Gonsolin and Tyler Anderson is not Not playoff proven.

The Dodgers might then have to close with a mischievous Craig Kimbrel, while the Padres will run out of heat from Hader.

In a series of one game, who did you get?

Don’t answer this.

“They’ve made their team a lot better the last couple of days and we’re looking forward to that rivalry,” Dodgers baseball boss Friedman said of the Padres on Tuesday during a conference call with reporters.

The idea that these Padres were even in the Dodgers’ league was unthinkable just a few days ago, but their general manager, AJ Preller, emptied his pockets for the Nationals to get Soto and apparently beat out a rich and deep organization that it should never be outbid. from anyone for anything.

Juan Soto celebrates with Josh Bell after his solo home run against the New York Mets.

Juan Soto, right, celebrates with Josh Bell after his solo home run against the New York Mets on Monday in Washington. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

Friedman usually owns this day, remember? Yu Darvish, Manny Machado, Max Scherzer and Turner, remember? And then there was the offseason trade for Betts.

Does any casual fan remember all the prospects traded for these players? History will show that trading guys for superstars is almost always worth it. In Soto’s case, he’s both a kid and a superstar, a unicorn of a player who was only traded because he wasn’t going to accept the Nationals’ 15-year, $440 million rebuilding contract offer.

Soto was a once-in-a-lifetime acquisition, and while the Dodgers didn’t exactly need him, they certainly didn’t need him to go to one of their division rivals.

It may be the biggest gamble of Friedman’s illustrious career here that this was allowed to happen.

“Our track record suggests that we would obviously be aggressive in trying to figure something out,” Friedman said.

But he admitted that with the team playing so well, his willingness in the past to give up its best prospects has waned somewhat.

“We felt really good about the group we have in place,” he said, later adding, “We have a really special dynamic in this room right now, that’s something we know.”

Understandable. But if they weren’t going to pursue Soto with their elite prospects like catcher Diego Cartaya, pitcher Bobby Miller and third baseman Miguel Vargas — who he just brought up to the big leagues on Tuesday — then why didn’t they go elsewhere to start pitching depth? Why not make a serious run for Cincinnati’s Luis Castillo, who ended up with the Seattle Mariners? Or bring home New York Yankee-turned-Frankie Montas?

Friedman figures to add a lot of pitching when several strong arms return over the next six weeks from injury to join recently active Andrew Heaney. He’s talking about the likes of Dustin May, Blake Treinen and, maybe, even long-shot Buehler.

“With some combination of weapons we probably have to come back … he was talking about having a high bar,” he said. “We felt really good about the potential of what our pitching staff might look like in October.”

However, that’s another bet, especially with rotation. Over the next couple of months, the back of the bullpen problems can be fixed with a lot of rotating relievers, but the issue in the front of the rotation remains uncertain.

“I feel good about the team we have in place and the way they’ve played,” Friedman said. “If we have an acute need, you’ll see us lean more. I feel good about how aggressive we were.”

But were they aggressive enough? The answer will come in October. The Padres will be waiting.

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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