The biggest spenders in baseball wanted to mix in more new-school savvy when they hired Andrew Friedman from the Tampa Bay Rays as president of baseball operations, then let him bring in Farhan Zaidi, Josh Byrnes and a bunch of other products of higher education to build what the team thinks is baseball's West Coast think tank.
Wednesday's day-long trade saga was the kind of thing they had in mind. Friedman and his guys came up with another deal that combines creativity and precision with a big blue-and-white bulldozer to move all the cash around.
It's a three-team trade with the Miami Marlins and Atlanta Braves. If it's completed, it would land the Dodgers two legit starting pitchers, Mat Latos and Alex Wood, and relievers Jim Johnson and Luis Avilan, plus journeyman slugger Michael Morse, whose stay could be short, and well-regarded infield prospect Jose Peraza.
Some people believe the deal simply buys the Dodgers the pieces to acquire David Price from the Detroit Tigers. Perhaps so, but even if it doesn't, this looks like a major boost to the Dodgers' World Series aspirations.
Mike Bolsinger -- who pitched another a strong five innings in the Dodgers' 10-7 win over the Oakland A's on Wednesday and has a 2.83 ERA -- has done nothing to lose his rotation spot, but the Dodgers are a better team if they're stockpiling him at Triple-A or in their bullpen rather than relying on him every fifth day in what's shaping up as a heated pennant race.
Wood, 24, is just the kind of controllable young pitcher that can ease some of the Dodgers' worries about their rotation in 2015 and beyond, when the rotation will be in flux beyond Clayton Kershaw. Wood won't be arbitration eligible until 2017 and won't hit free agency for five more years. Oh, by the way, he has a 3.10 lifetime ERA, throws left-handed and has well above-average stuff. Latos becomes one of the best fifth starters in the National League. He's still only 27 and he has a 2.96 ERA since he came back from the disabled list for an injured knee.
The talent cost to the Dodgers is modest, to put it conservatively: four pitching prospects who aren't Julio Urias, their best young arm, minor-league infielder Hector Olivera and injured reliever Paco Rodriguez. That must have been some brilliant deal-making by Friedman and his guys, right? Maybe, but none of it would have been possible if the Dodgers' owners weren't willing to continue signing huge checks to players on other teams.
The Dodgers already paid $28 million to Olivera as the signing bonus from his six-year, $62.5 million deal, making him a potential bargain for the Braves at $34.5 million for five-plus years. And they'll take Morse off the Marlins' hands and pay him the $11.5 million Miami would have owed him through 2016, though they have no real use for him. In fact, Morse could be designated for assignment before he ever pulls on a Dodgers jersey.
Combine that with the $12.5 million the Dodgers already sent Miami back in December to cover the costs of the contracts of pitcher Dan Haren and second baseman Dee Gordon and the Dodgers have practically turned the Marlins into their vassal state. Oh, and remember back in December, when they agreed to send $32 million to the San Diego Padres to complete the Matt Kemp deal?
Add up all the dead money Friedman has thrown around -- including players signed by senior advisor Ned Colletti that he has tossed aside -- and it comes to $80 million. Never did Friedman have a payroll that big when he was in Tampa.
Debate all you want about whether money or smarts is the Dodgers' biggest edge, but they plan on using both to stack the odds in their favor for multiple World Series titles in the coming years. Each of the major trades Friedman has group pulled off at the last winter meetings amounted to three-team deals, because they took a pitching prospect from San Diego and turned it into Jimmy Rollins then a pitching prospect from Miami and turned it into Howie Kendrick.
The action became so frenetic on Wednesday that manager Don Mattingly actually became concerned that it was becoming a distraction to his team. He said as much after Wednesday's game, without confirming that the Dodgers are on the verge of any trades.
"I just hear too much talk, too much chatter, guys just start talking about everything," Mattingly said. "There's nothing you can do about it. You just want your club to stay focused and just keep taking care of business."
If the Dodgers do make a run at Price -- and they certainly will eventually, whether it's in the remaining hours before Friday's 1 p.m. PT trade deadline or the offseason via free agency -- they could have the prospects to do it now without including their two prized young players, Corey Seager and Urias, who has yet to turn 19 and is pitching well at Double-A.
Peraza, 21, was ranked the No. 24 prospect in baseball by ESPN.com's Keith Law heading into the season and he has 25 stolen bases for the Braves' Triple-A club.
The moves give them crucial insurance against the injuries that might arise in the next two months as they fight the San Francisco Giants for division supremacy. Kershaw is nursing a sore right hip. Brett Anderson is still getting treatment for a tight Achilles tendon. It allows them to give Brandon Beachy all the time he needs to hone his command as he attempts the brutally difficult task of returning from a second round of Tommy John surgery.
It's an impressive upgrade, probably more impactful than the trade everyone thought they were fixated on for Cole Hamels. And, of course, 29 other general managers around baseball, maybe even Beane himself, are probably thinking, "I'd be pretty smart, too, if I could toss $80 million down the drain and still keep my job."