Andrew Friedman's reputation as a pragmatic executive who seeks value on the margins and shies away from the headline-grabbing acquisitions is no longer applicable. The Los Angeles Dodgers president of baseball operations, who cut his teeth in the front office of a famously frugal Tampa Bay Rays organization, is officially a big-game hunter.
Over the last four years, Friedman has acquired -- either through free agency or via trade -- Yu Darvish, Manny Machado, Mookie Betts, Trevor Bauer, Max Scherzer and Trea Turner, a sextet of players who have combined for 25 All-Star Game appearances, four Cy Young Awards and one MVP.
The latest move -- plucking Scherzer and Turner from the Washington Nationals for a package of four prospects, headlined by catcher Keibert Ruiz and pitcher Josiah Gray -- might have provided the Dodgers with some distance in a tightly contested National League West and made them the favorites to repeat as champions.
"I feel like we had a championship-caliber team before this, with the group of talent we have, with the guys that are coming back from injury," Friedman said Friday. "But whenever you're in position to win a championship and you have impact-type players that you can add -- our mindset is to be aggressive on that and try to balance the today and the tomorrow. And some of the times that we've balanced the future have put us in position to do this."
Scherzer, the best starting pitcher available by a wide margin, was being pursued by the division-rival San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants. The Dodgers, with a clear need at the top of their rotation because of the sexual assault allegations surrounding Bauer, made him a clear target. But they didn't want to part with premium prospects for someone who would amount to a rental. Adding Turner, a star shortstop who is controllable through 2022 and might offer positional flexibility, created a path for both teams to acquire what they needed.
The question now is where Turner plays.
Corey Seager, the Dodgers' starting shortstop over these last five years, was activated off the injured list Friday after missing the last 11 weeks with a fifth metacarpal fracture in his right hand. Seager will return to his regular position while Turner navigates Major League Baseball's health and safety protocols after testing positive for COVID-19 earlier this week, but it's unclear how the lineup will shake out when both are active.
Turner spent a lot of time playing center field and second base in 2015 and 2016, while Seager has played almost exclusively at shortstop as a professional. It seems logical that the Dodgers would deploy Turner in center field, which can put the struggling Cody Bellinger in something of a left-field platoon with the right-handed-hitting A.J. Pollock, or second base, where he can occasionally spell the young Gavin Lux.
But Friedman and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts remain noncommittal.
"I'm gonna talk to him and kind of figure out where the best fit is for him, our club, but this guy can do so many things on a baseball field," said Roberts, who got to know Turner when he was in the Padres' minor league system and Roberts was on their major league coaching staff. "Right now, he's a Dodger, Corey's a Dodger. It's about winning, and we'll put the pieces together."
The Dodgers fell 6-5 in 10 innings to the lowly Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night and remained three games behind the Giants, who augmented their lineup in a big way by trading for four-time All-Star Kris Bryant. Two-and-a-half games behind the Dodgers are the Padres, who acquired Adam Frazier, the major league leader in hits, and also traded for another back-end bullpen piece in Daniel Hudson. The Dodgers have won the NL West each of the last eight years, but doing so again is far from a foregone conclusion.
Freidman admitted that the dynamics of the division were "definitely a factor" in his approach.
"Right now, we've gotta really think long and hard about August and September," Friedman said. "That definitely played a role in this for sure."
The Dodgers still aren't certain when they'll see Turner, but Scherzer, who pitched six innings of one-run ball on Thursday, will join the team on Saturday, throw his side session on Sunday and is expected to make his first start for the Dodgers in Wednesday's highly anticipated game against the Houston Astros. Duffy, nursing a flexor strain, isn't expected to be activated off the IL until sometime around September, at which point the Dodgers will assess his role. Ideally the 32-year-old left-hander would act as a dynamic, multi-inning reliever, playing a role similar to the one Julio Urias filled in recent years.
The Dodgers began the year with a plethora of starting-pitching options, Urias included. But Dustin May has been lost to Tommy John surgery and Bauer has been caught up in legal trouble that has kept him away from the team since the end of June. Those circumstances -- combined with Clayton Kershaw's forearm inflammation and Tony Gonsolin's inconsistencies -- made starting pitching the Dodgers' focus before the trade deadline.
"We collectively felt that that was a top priority for us to move the needle to give us the best chance to win the World Series in '21," Roberts said.
Roberts hand-selected Scherzer to serve as the NL's starting pitcher at the All-Star Game earlier this month and called him a "fierce competitor, champion, winner."
"The work he puts in each day before starts, in between starts, parallels Clayton's, which is very well-documented to Dodger fans," Roberts said.
From 2013 to 2021, Scherzer, 36, has accumulated 131 wins, three Cy Young Awards, eight invitations to the All-Star Game and a 2.86 ERA. Scherzer leads the majors in FanGraphs wins above replacement (fWAR) during that nine-year stretch with 48.4. Right behind him is Kershaw, with 45.4.
Turner, 28, ranks fourth among shortstops in fWAR since 2018, batting .298/.359/.484 with 68 home runs and 111 stolen bases in 439 games. He made his first All-Star Game this year and is on pace for a career-high 27 homers. Friedman called him "a dynamic player" who would add a welcomed blend of foot speed and contact ability to the Dodgers' offense.
The Dodgers haven't been particularly close to whole offensively for most of the year, but Seager returned on Friday and Mookie Betts (hip) will be back on Sunday. The hope is that Turner will be activated days after that, then Kershaw will follow, then Corey Knebel will rejoin the back end of the bullpen, all within the next two weeks -- putting the Dodgers in prime position for what should be an epic battle in the NL West.
"For anyone -- myself included, a sports fan, baseball fan -- to wrap their head around the NL West baseball, see as the dust finally settles, it's crazy," Roberts said. "I don't think I've ever seen anything like this."