The Dodgers are trying to transition from free-spending new ownership to a sustainable model of internal development while simultaneously focusing on winning a World Series now. Colletti even used the phrase "fiscally responsible," perhaps a hint that taking on other teams' bad contracts is no longer in the Dodgers' playbook.
"Winning and developing at the same time is not always easy to do," he said. "We're trying to do both. This is the first time in maybe eight or nine years we think we have the prospects that can be everyday or even star players."
So while the Dodgers wanted Lester or Price or San Diego reliever Joaquin Benoit, they weren't willing to part with top prospects Corey Seager, Julio Urias or Joc Pederson to get them, and Colletti indicated it would have taken at least one, sometimes more, plus second-level prospects to make one of those trades.
"Maybe we were hindered by having three of the top 30 prospects, because everybody started there and tried to stay there," Colletti said. "If I told you some of the players we asked for and the response was one of the three, you'd find it laughable, but that was the case.
"If we didn't think the three had a chance to be significant players, they'd be out of here. But we do. This franchise's greatest years were when the team came through the system. In its heyday, they developed internally. But you have to be patient about it."
So the Dodgers still have their trio of prized prospects. But they also still have Josh Beckett and Dan Haren in the starting rotation. Beckett is pitching with a hip impingement; Haren has a four-game losing streak.
The Dodgers also still have what Colletti feels was their No. 1 need all along, the bullpen.
"The needs we were trying to get better at superseded starting pitching," he said, without using the word bullpen.
Having swung epic Deadline trades in past years, Colletti said he was a little frustrated to come away empty Thursday, but he was not surprised after surveying the trade landscape in recent weeks.
"It was going to be very much a long shot, based on the conversations earlier," he said. "Had we done something of major consequences, it doesn't guarantee you're going to win. You can get the biggest name on the block. Teams have made great trades, heralded trades on this day, and it didn't guarantee they'd get a parade."
He added that the sudden shift by selling clubs to demand 25-man roster players in return also didn't match with the Dodgers.
"We didn't have a Cespedes to offer," he said of Yoenis Cespedes, the key player Oakland dealt for Lester. "I guess we could have [offered Yasiel Puig], but we didn't."
The Dodgers' system hasn't developed enough players to provide a surplus of 25-man roster players who other clubs would want in return for elite pitching. Still, Colletti said he believes the club as it's currently structured can win a World Series.
"I believe we can, but I'll also tell you in some areas we've got to step up," he said. "We're capable of it. We're not asking them to do something they haven't already done. Sometimes, the player has to do it. You can't depend on a savior to come in."
He added that he has made significant acquisitions in past Augusts (the Boston blockbuster deal for Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett; Marlon Anderson; Ronnie Belliard; and Greg Maddux) and would continue on that path, counting on more clubs becoming sellers.
"It's a little more difficult," he said, "but not impossible."