Two teams that haven’t won the World Series in more than two decades went all in at the July 31 trade deadline.

One team with a $230 million payroll and a 27-year drought did not.

The Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays acted as if they were desperate to win this year. The Los Angeles Dodgers did not.

The Dodgers still have a team good enough to win a first World Series since 1988. For all that money—and it’s actually more than $300 million, if you count the cash the Dodgers have included in trades—they ought to have a chance.

But for all that money, shouldn’t they have more than just a chance? If they were desperate to win this year, shouldn’t they have ended up with David Price or Cole Hamels as their big pitching addition, not Mat Latos?

Latos has talent, and scouts who saw him over the last month will tell you that he looked as good as his July numbers (a 1.80 ERA in three starts after coming off the disabled list) would indicate. Also, as a free agent at the end of the season, there’s more chance that he’ll be motivated and less chance that he’ll disrupt an already volatile clubhouse.

But he’s not Price, the left-hander who went to the Blue Jays and showed again in his Monday debut why he was considered the top talent on the market.

Many people in baseball expected the Dodgers to get Price, especially after Hamels went from the Philadelphia Phillies to the Texas Rangers. But when the Dodgers made it clear to the Detroit Tigers that all of their top prospects would be off-limits in trade talks (not just Corey Seager and Julio Urias, but lesser names like Jose De Leon, as well), the talks never got serious.

The Tigers quickly understood that they could do better by sending Price elsewhere, and in the deal with Toronto, they got three quality left-handed pitchers. The Dodgers got Latos, Alex Wood, Luis Avilan and Jim Johnson without parting with any top young prospects because they were willing to take on so much salary in what became a three-way deal with the Miami Marlins and Atlanta Braves.

It’s a fair argument that the Dodgers still got what they needed, a solid big league starter to put behind Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, another good young arm in Wood and a pair of arms to add to their shaky bullpen. They didn’t do badly at the deadline, not at all.

But with all that money spent and no World Series titles since the Kirk Gibson-inspired 1988 championship, the lingering question will always be whether they should have done better.

With Kershaw, Greinke and Price (or Hamels), the Dodgers would have looked like overwhelming favorites. With Kershaw, Greinke and Latos, they look like a team that could win, if things break their way.

The first weekend with the new rotation went just fine, with Greinke, Kershaw and Latos combining for 22 innings with just three runs allowed to the Los Angeles Angels, as the Dodgers swept the Freeway Series.

Nice start, but the Freeway Series isn’t the World Series.

To get to the real thing, the Dodgers may well need to get past the St. Louis Cardinals, the team that has eliminated them the last two seasons (and the team Kershaw has a 7.14 ERA against in four starts in those two series). The Dodgers had their Kershaw-Greinke combination in those two series too. They had Hyun-jin Ryu as their third starter.

And it wasn’t enough.

The Dodgers still aren’t an offensive powerhouse (they’re 15th in MLB in runs scored), and their bullpen still doesn’t dominate (their 3.91 relief ERA is 23rd in the majors). They have questions at the top of their batting order, where Jimmy Rollins (.272 on-base percentage) has replaced rookie Joc Pederson (.488 OPS with four walks and 31 strikeouts in 96 July plate appearances).

They’ve been good enough to stay atop the National League West, good enough to play at a pace that projects to 93 wins, right about what they had last year and the year before.

They should get to the playoffs, and they should get there with some chance to win it all. They’ll get there having preserved the prospect base that gives them a solid future.

All that is fine, and in an analytical sense, I’m sure it all fits. But baseball is an emotional game, too, and Dodger fans’ emotions tell them it’s been an awful long time since they celebrated a championship.

Perhaps this could have been the year. Perhaps it still could be.

For a third of a billion dollars, or whatever it is the Dodgers are spending, you’d think they could do better than perhaps.


Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

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