Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Great Improvening: Improving the Dodgers Part 1 - Starting Pitching

 Today starts a series of posts I will make discussing the Dodgers and the journey to improving the club from 2015 heading into 2016 starting with position number 1 on the diamond, the pitcher.

The 2015 Dodgers were led by Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke who had one of the better years a 1-2 starting rotation combo could have.  Kershaw has been the best starting pitcher for the last few years but his teammate Zack Greinke gave him a run for his money in 2015 besting Kershaw's ERA from 2014 by putting up a 1.66 ERA and in more innings.  Kershaw was no slouch himself with his measly 301 strikeouts (first pitcher to top 300 Ks since Randy Johnson).  But after these two, the rotation seemed to falter a bit.

Oh and Mat Latos too...shudder
At the beginning of the season the rotation was set to rival other clubs as one of the best with 3-4-5 being Hyun-Jin Ryu and newcomers Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson.  Things didn't shape up to be as glamorous as it was on paper as Ryu's hurt shoulder sidelined him for the whole year and McCarthy ended up tearing an elbow ligament requiring the dreaded Tommy John surgery early in the season.  What transpired was a very solid showing from Anderson followed by a patchwork rotation of fill ins with Carlos Frias, Mike Bolsinger (a surprisingly effective pitcher for a while), and eventually Alex Wood.

As the off-season kicks into gear, the Dodgers have shed quite a bit of their payroll from 2015 with almost 150 million dollars freeing up.  This leaves quite a bit of money to sign what is a pretty hefty pool of free agent starting pitchers (which includes Zack Greinke after his opt out of his contract leaves him a free agent).  Re-signing Greinke has been reported to be the top priority of the Dodgers with David Price an apparent close second.  Unlike Price and a few of the other free agents, signing Greinke would not cost the Dodgers the qualifying offer draft pick that it would other teams which gives them a step up (and a security blanket if a team steals him away).

The Dodgers have right now an almost projected full rotation but not for the start of the season as Ryu is still a question mark, McCarthy won't be ready until sometime mid-season, and Greinke still up in the air.  Even if Brett Anderson doesn't accept his qualifying offer and signs somewhere else, he's essentially replaced with newbie Alex Wood who can most likely replicate Anderson's value (possibly even more so if Wood can get his K numbers back up).  If Ryu is set to be ready by the season's start then the Dodgers may just need Greinke and one other pitcher (be it Price or someone else like Jordan Zimmermann).

Can the Dodgers get David at the right Price?
However the list also includes some lesser names that won't cost the Dodgers a draft pick from the qualifying offer OR  the kind of contract a name like Price would.  Mike Leake since being traded mid-season was not eligible for a qualifying offer and is a dependable name for any rotation.  If Greinke is re-signed and the front office expects Ryu back by the start of the season, that's already a pretty set 1-2-3 (however the question mark of Ryu's quality coming back from the injury might be too much of a gamble).  Even a name like Johnny Cueto is exempt from a qualifying offer but with a shaky end of the season outside of some brilliant postseason starts, Cueto could be a large contract bust.

The Dodgers rotation was serviceable in 2015 and with some duct tape and glue was able to land Los Angeles the NL West.  But with Game 3 of the NLDS showing the importance of having at least 3 solid pitching options, it can't just be the Kershaw and Greinke show.  Whether the front office wants to take the risk with Ryu and save some money for position players and bullpen arms, they're gonna need to ensure that there's at least somebody dependable behind Kershaw and Greinke.

Somebody find out if that woman is dependable

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