Notes: Dodgers wisely willing to sacrifice dollars, not prospects

The Blue Jays needed a David Price. The Royals needed a Johnny Cueto. But the Dodgers already had an ace, two of them actually: Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.

For the Dodgers, a pitcher such as Price, Cueto or Cole Hamels was more of a luxury than a necessity, and the team’s new front office was not inclined to give up significant prospects for a luxury.

That, more than anything, is why the Dodgers ended up with two lesser but capable starters, Mat Latos and Alex Wood, rather than say, Price or Hamels in a bigger deal.

The team is on a 91-win pace, despite injuries to Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy. And while Mike Bolsinger effectively has plugged one hole, the Dodgers have scrambled pretty much all season to plug the other.

Adding Latos and Wood to the trio of Kershaw, Greinke and Brett Anderson changes the entire dynamic, reducing Bolsinger — he of the 2.83 ERA — to the first option if someone gets injured, the sixth starter.

Yet, the Dodgers did not part with a single top prospect in their 13-player deal with the Marlins and Braves. No, they simply flexed their financial muscle to land not just Latos and Wood, but also relievers Jim Johnson and Luis Avila plus top infield prospect Jose Peraza.

The finances in the deal were so complex, one Dodgers official couldn’t recall off the top of his head Saturday exactly how much money the team swallowed. With the Braves acquiring Cuban infielder Hector Olivera, to whom the Dodgers gave a $28 million signing bonus, L.A. is now paying $85.75 million to players who are not on their roster, according to the Los Angeles Times.

For years, fans complained about the Yankees’ spending, but the Dodgers’ Guggenheim ownership makes the late George Steinbrenner look almost like Frank McCourt. Rival clubs might object, but the Dodgers, like the Yankees, are simply exploiting the system to maximum advantage.

The scary part is, this is only the beginning. Over time, Andrew Friedman and Co. will mix in talented youngsters such as Peraza, shortstop Corey Seager and left-hander Julio Urias while shedding inflated contracts that they inherited from the previous front office and absorbed in their own deals.

HIGH FASHION WITH A PURPOSE

At that point, the Dodgers will be in a remarkably flexible financial position, making them even more dangerous. And as their rivals in the NL West can attest, they’re already dangerous enough.

THE METS: ALL IS FORGIVEN (ALMOST)

A cynic would say that the Mets spent only $2 million or so more on their acquisitions than the money they will pocket from David Wright’s insurance and Jennry Mejia’s suspension.

Enough.

For once, Mets ownership and general manager Sandy Alderson warrant outright praise, and not simply the benefit of the doubt.

First the Mets obtained Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson, then Tyler Clippard and then — after a bizarre, circuitous journey — their big prize, Yoenis Cespedes.

Mets fans will not be satisfied — and should not be satisfied — until the team raises its payroll to a level more commensurate with the New York market. But Alderson’s moves were the proper moves for this team at this time.

2015 TRADE DEADLINE

Uribe and Johnson are incremental upgrades who add presence and professionalism. Clippard reinforces a bullpen that needed help even before Mejia’s latest suspension. And Cespedes is what the Mets needed most:€“ a slugger to supplement the middle of their lineup.

The debate over what happened with Carlos Gomez might never be settled, but the end result validated the Mets’ position — that they backed out of the trade due to physical concerns about Gomez, not financial considerations.

Cespedes is owed about $3.8 million for the rest of the season, Gomez about $2.9 million. Jay Bruce, whom the Mets tried to acquire before Cespedes, is more expensive than both.

A cynic would say that Cespedes’ guarantee is the lowest of the three — he is a free agent at the end of the season, while Gomez and Bruce are under contract through 2016.

Ah, give the Mets a break. They did what they had to do. Enough.

THE TRUE MARKET FOR HAMELS

Every time I wrote the Phillies should lower their expectations in a Cole Hamels trade, I would hear from some of their fans — and even some of their executives — arguing, "No way. Hamels is an ace. He is under control. We get top prospects, or no deal."

AROUND THE HORN

In the end, the Phillies did well for Hamels and lefty Jake Diekman, landing a solid package that included outfielder Nick Williams, catcher Jorge Alfaro and right-hander Jake Thompson. But to get even that much, the Phils needed to give up Diekman, send $9.5 million to the Rangers and absorb the approximately $33 million remaining on left-hander Matt Harrison’s deal (though the Phillies could collect insurance on Harrison for time missed due to injury).

The Rangers, meanwhile, retained two of their top prospects, third baseman Joey Gallo and outfielder Nomar Mazara. And factoring in the financial exchange, they’re getting Hamels for four more years at an average salary in the $13 million to $14 million range, assuming his option vests, plus three more years of control on Diekman.

That’s pretty darned good.

In a separate deal, the Rangers acquired from the Marlins another reliever, right-hander Sam Dyson, whom they can control for six more years.

JAYS FLEX PROSPECT POWER

Shortly after 4 p.m. ET on Friday, I sent Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos a text saying that his farm system was the star of the deadline.

"People seemed to like it — haha," Anthopoulos replied.

Baseball America ranked the Jays’ system No. 9 in its preseason organization rankings — upper third, but not elite. Yet Anthopoulos, by trading 11 prospects and Jose Reyes, acquired five major leaguers over the past week: superstars Troy Tulowitzki and David Price, plus LaTroy Hawkins, Ben Revere and Mark Lowe.

Anthopoulos went down the same aggressive path after the 2012 season when he made his blockbuster with the Marlins and the R.A. Dickey trade. But the Jays’ scouting and player development departments kept producing talent, and just two years later Anthopoulos was in position to acquire Josh Donaldson, and eight months after that, Tulowitzki and Price.

The cost has been high, but hardly crippling. The Jays, in particular, have traded a slew of starting pitchers since ’12: Noah Syndergaard, Anthony DeSclafani and Kendall Graveman among them, and now Daniel Norris and Jeff Hoffman. But their major-league club still includes a number of homegrown arms, including Drew Hutchison, Aaron Sanchez, Roberto Osuna and the injured Marcus Stroman.

Did Anthopoulos pay too high a price in turning over 25 percent of his roster? It remains to be seen. But isn’t this the way a team is supposed to operate, churning out players for trades and the major-league club? Absolutely.

A (ASTROS), B (BUYER), C (CHAMPIONSHIP)?

Astros GM Jeff Luhnow had little experience as a buyer, though he did part with two of his top 10 prospects to land Evan Gattis in January. But the only need that Luhnow failed to address at the deadline was a reliever — and it wasn’t for lack of trying, given his discussions on Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel and others.

In the end, Luhnow parted with two prospects for Scott Kazmir, four for Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers. The latter deal was particularly interesting — the acquisition cost was outfielders Brett Phillips and Domingo Santana, plus left-hander Josh Hader and righty Adrian Houser. As one Astros official said of the Brewers, "They did their homework."

Phillips was the big prize, a speedy center fielder with a terrific arm who ultimately will be a long-term replacement for Gomez. Some with the Astros viewed Phillips as similar to Adam Eaton but not quite Brett Gardner. Few doubt that he will be successful.

Hader, whom Luhnow acquired from the Orioles in the Bud Norris trade, is likely a reliever, possibly a Jake McGee-type. Hauser is a classic power right-hander who could end up a back-end starter. Santana, a right-handed hitter with big power and big swing-and-miss, could be a future run producer in right field, or another Justin Maxwell.

Luhnow — like Alderson, Anthopoulos and the Royals’ Dayton Moore, among others —€“ proved willing to part with significant young talent while teams such as the Dodgers and Yankees hoarded their prospects.

The trend was refreshing. Teams can play for tomorrow for only so long.