Dodgers’s Starting Rotation Up For Grabs

As of now, the Dodgers’ starting rotation is Clayton Kershaw, Brett Anderson, Alex Wood, Mike Boisinger and Carlos Frias. Seriously. A year ago as Andrew Friedman, knowing all too well of the fragile health state of then number three starter Hyun-Jin Ryu, went out and signed every other fragile, injured and questionable starter on the market, including Anderson, Brandon McCarthy, Brandon Beachy, Erik Bedard, and Chad Gaudin. Well, Anderson got through the season relatively unscathed, started 31 games, and now stands as the staff’s number two guy, by default. McCarthy got into the season and made four starts before the usual McCarthy injury ended his season before the end of April. Beachy was not ready to pitch until July and made two starts and was out. None of those others

made it through spring training. During the season, guys like Max Latos (five starts), David Huff (one start) and Bronson Arroyo (zero starts) were acquired and quickly found wanting, as were prospects Joe Wieland and Zach Lee. Young veterans Wood and Boisinger came in and filled out the rotation, showing occasional flashes of promise, and when not injured, Carlos Frias also managed to start a dozen plus one games.
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So, now with Greinke gone to Arizona and with other premium starters David Price, Jordan Zimmerman and John Lackey signed elsewhere, the field of top level potential free agent signees has been narrowed to one, Johnny Cueto, who had a very disappointing 2015 season (11-13, 3.44 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 7.47 K/IP). His outstanding post season, however, seems to have resurrected his status as a top level number one guy, but I would be hesitant to jump in with a $150 Million-plus contract hoping that Cueto will return to his 2014 form (20-9, 2.25 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 8.94 K/IP) for a full season. Through Cueto’s prior six major league season, he had only one, 2011, that began to compare to 2014, and his lifetime stats are full of seasons like 9-14, 11-11, and 12-7.

So, with Ryu and McCarthy both total uncertainties and neither likely to be pitching near the start of the 2016 season, where do the Dodgers turn? The next level of free agents is far from overwhelming, and includes names such as Jeff Samardzija, Mike Leake, Hisashi Iwakuma, Wei-Yin Chen and Scott Kazmir. Samardzija has been an under achiever and extremely overrated, and at best would be a middle of the rotation kind of guy, not the

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number two the Dodgers no so desperately need. Much the same can be said about Leake, who has been an 11 to 14 game winner most seasons and likely will never be more than that. After his late 2015 acquisition by the Giants, he totally failed to help them through the pennant drive, going 2-5 in nine starts. Chen has seemed to get a bit better in each of his four seasons and might be primed to take a step up, but, and that’s a big but, with the Dodgers’ staff one lefty
after another, the need is desperate for a quality righty starter and not yet another southpaw like Chen. Kazmir, also a lefty, has had so many ups and downs it would be folly to make a major, long-term investment in him. And he also disappointed greatly, going 2-6, when Houston acquired him for their 2015 stretch drive.

And so, out of this group, that leaves only Iwakuma. At 34 the oldest of the bunch, it took him awhile to return to form after an early 2015 lat strain, but he was solid again through the second half of 2015, even throwing an August no-hitter against the power-laden Orioles. Iwakuma fits the bill as a solid number two starter and throws right handed, but the age factor screams out to no long-term deals.

But where else do the Dodgers go? A trade, such as another give-away deal with San Diego, this time for 33-year-old James Shields? Or, heaven forbid, an utterly stupid deal that could send Joc Pederson to the Braves for Shelby Miller?

As I’ve written so often, I was overjoyed when the Dodgers brought in Andrew Friedman as head of baseball operations, but his deals, AND his hirings, have been overwhelmingly
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disappointing, and what he does this off-season will shape the future of the Dodgers much more so than the cut-and-paste deals done last off season and through the 2015 campaign. Whether there are one or more major trades or one or more long-term megabuck signings, the future is now and that future remains in peril.

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