Column: Why the Dodgers need to go big at the trade deadline

They found their latest reclamation project.

Now, the Dodgers can look for an established producer.

They found their next potential bargain.

Now, the Dodgers can make a high-end purchase.

They found another versatile role player.

Now, the Dodgers can search for a real difference maker.

This is nothing against Kiké Hernández, whom the Dodgers acquired this week from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for two minor league pitchers.

Hernández is in the middle of the worst season of his career but has championship pedigree. The banana-costume-wearing utilityman remains a crowd favorite here from the last time he played for the Dodgers.

Such price-conscious deals have become the trademark of Andrew Friedman’s front office, but these aren’t the kinds of moves that will take the Dodgers back to the World Series.

The time is now for the Dodgers to reach back. The time is now for them to take a big swing. The time is now for them to make a major deal.

They can work with Hernández to turn him back into the player who was a major part of their last championship team, but they should also do whatever they can to acquire one of the best players in the league in Nolan Arenado.

They can bolster their pitching depth with the steady but unspectacular Jordan Montgomery, but they should also deal for the more accomplished Dylan Cease.

They can take a chance on 36-year-old Lance Lynn and his 6.18 ERA, but they should also place a safer wager on a pitcher in his prime such as Lucas Giolito or Marcus Stroman.

The Dodgers might have outperformed their preseason expectations and might be on top of the National League West, but they aren’t just a couple of minor deals away from World Series contention.

Whether it was because the uncertain status of Trevor Bauer placed them in financial limbo, or because they were saving money to make a run at Shohei Ohtani this winter, or because they misread the market, the Dodgers spent their offseason in a state of paralysis. The result was a team with an uncomfortably top-heavy lineup and an excessively youthful rotation.

Between now and the Aug. 1 trade deadline, however, the Dodgers can remedy their problems. They should take advantage of the opportunity.

Around this time in 2017, I wrote that the Dodgers should trade for Yu Darvish. They did, and they went on to reach the World Series.

Around this time in 2018, I wrote that the Dodgers should trade for Manny Machado. They did, and they went on to reach the World Series.

With another industry-rocking trade deadline, the Dodgers could be on their way to playing in another Fall Classic.

What distinguishes these Dodgers from their recent predecessors are the performances of their two best players. Freddie Freeman and Mookie Betts are having MVP-caliber seasons. With Freeman 33 and Betts 30, how many more times can the Dodgers count on this happening?

The Dodgers have made nine-figure contract commitments to Freeman and Betts, so it would make sense for them to do what’s necessary to maximize their investments.

The third baseman on the out-of-contention St. Louis Cardinals, Arenado would be appealing on multiple fronts. A Southern California native, Arenado is believed to be open to waiving the no-trade provision in his contract to facilitate a trade to the Dodgers.

Arenado would introduce another middle-of-the-order threat to an offense that drops off in quality after the first four or five spots. He is also a 10-time Gold Glove winner who would offer the Dodgers a significant defensive upgrade at third base from Max Muncy.

Muncy would presumably be sent to the Cardinals as part of an Arenado deal; multiple pitching prospects would almost certainly be attached.

But would the Dodgers deal the prospects necessary to obtain reinforcements the caliber of Arenado, Cease or Giolito?

The Dodgers have made significant deals under Friedman but have always done so on their terms. They pride themselves on never overpaying for players. They insist on winning each and every trade.

This discipline explains why they failed to make any major deals before the trade deadline last year, or in 2020, or 2019. With six teams qualifying for the playoffs in each league, this figures to be a seller’s market, as some teams that would have been sellers in previous seasons are now playoff contenders.

Freeman and Betts are having special seasons. The Dodgers could have a special season collectively as well, but that will require them to do what they loathe. They might have to lose a battle to win the war. They might have to lose a trade to win the season.