Let’s Start Thinking About the Dodgers 2015 Starting Rotation


The wounds are still fresh, and the Fall Classic features the anti-Dodgers, but it is time to move on and begin to think about next season. The arduous journey ended abruptly for the 2014 Dodgers, and once again like the continuous cycle of natural forces in the world, the next season has already begun for the Dodgers. A new season, full of promise and hope for that chance to finally get back to the World Series. It’s been a long time coming. The fans have endured many long, emotional seasons post-1988, and they deserve to be rewarded for their loyalty.

Excellent pitching has been a cornerstone of Dodger tradition throughout history. The Dodgers signed super ace Clayton Kershaw last winter, and I feel as though there won’t be another huge signing akin to Kershaw’s this offseason. The Kershaw contract had to be done. Signing Kershaw was the best decision the Dodger ownership has made since taking over from McCourt. Although Kershaw has had bumpy postseason appearances the last two years, I wish nothing more than to see Clayton Kershaw pitch in the World Series.

Kershaw will make $30 million next year. He isn’t a free agent until 2021.

…Clayton Kershaw strikes out Mike Trout to win Game 5 of the 2015 World Series! The Dodgers are World Champions!…

Clayton Kershaw will anchor  this Dodger rotation for years to come. Photo: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

I apologize for my daydreams.

Anyhow, Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu will be a solid 1-2-3 for the Dodgers’ rotation in 2015 and beyond. Zack Greinke does have an opt-out clause for after 2015, so that is something the Dodgers will have to think about as they build their long-term rotation. I don’t see Greinke opting out if the Dodgers remain successful, but you never know. With Greinke’s gutsy postseason performance and elite pitching during the season, I would like to see the quirky right-hander with the Dodgers for years to come.

Greinke will make $25 million next year. He can opt-out after the 2015 season.

Hyun-jin Ryu rounds out the top three, and Ryu will receive a reasonable $4.833 million next season. He is a free agent in 2019.

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  • That leaves the fourth and fifth spots. Last season, Masahiro Tanaka rumors were rampant, but the Dodgers didn’t end up nabbing the Japanese hurler. They instead chose to bank on the comebacks of Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley which only worked for a portion of the season. The Dodgers wisely passed on Ricky Nolasco last winter who was subsequently overpaid for by the Twins. Josh Beckett had a surprisingly heroic first half to the season, but Chad Billingsley would not make one pitch for the Dodgers after having a huge setback and tearing his elbow again.

    Ned Colletti, perhaps with hands tied (I do not know who long the Andrew Friedman talks have been going on) picked up a cheap Dan Haren on the free agent market last season. Haren pitched admirably this past season, and he still has a $10 million player option for 2015. if Haren is back next season, I see the Dodgers needing at least 1-2 more starting pitchers going into Spring Training.

    Chad Billingsley will probably get an invite to Spring Training, but he hasn’t pitched since April 15, 2013 for the Dodgers. The Dodgers will likely buy his contract out for the 2015 year for a price of $3 million rather than paying him $14 million for next year. I’m rooting for Bills to make a comeback, but the right-hander will need to have a great Spring and be healthy in order to garner a deal from any club.

    Departing free agents Kevin Correia and Roberto Hernandez shall be forgotten already. The Dodgers could potentially re-sign Paul Maholm cheap, but he is

    I’m certain there will be someone new donning the number 55 in 2015 for the Dodgers. Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    recovering from season-ending knee surgery.

    I’m not sure what happened with Zach Lee. Colletti and company held on to him for this long, but I’m still not sure when he is to make his MLB debut. The 23-year old right-hander has been pitching four seasons in the Dodgers’ minor league system, but he had a rough year with Albuquerque in 2013 going 7-13 with a 5.38 ERA over 150 2/3 innings pitched. He struck out 97 and walked 54. With the Dodgers moving their Triple-A team to Oklahoma City, I think the Dodgers would like to see Lee along with other prospects who have played in Albuquerque, spend some time in OKC in order to more accurately gauge their development. I think we will see Lee debut with the Dodgers in 2015 at some point.

    Carlos Frias was a decent stand-in when the Dodgers needed him, but there’s no way they can start him regularly. Red Patterson, Matt Magill, and Stephen Fife are not viable options. Fife, who is recovering from Tommy John Surgery, is out of options. If a spot on the 40-man roster is needed this winter, Fife may be one of the first to go. The Dodgers will also need to add players to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft. Scott Schebler could be one of the minor leaguers added to the roster in order to retain the slugging outfielder.

    Andrew Friedman, and his future GM, will need to look into the free agent pool for starting pitching this winter. Here’s a list of free agent starting pitchers courtesy of MLBTradeRumors.com.

    Starting Pitchers

    Brett Anderson (27) – $12MM club option with a $1.5MM buyout
    Scott Baker (33)
    Chad Billingsley (30) – $14MM club option with a $3MM buyout
    A.J. Burnett (38) – mutual option
    Chris Capuano (36)
    Bruce Chen (38) – $5.5MM mutual option with a $1MM buyout
    Wei-Yin Chen (29) – $4.75MM club option with a $372K buyout
    Kevin Correia (34)
    Johnny Cueto (29) – $10MM club option with an $800K buyout
    Gavin Floyd (32)
    Yovani Gallardo (29) – $13MM club option with a $600K buyout
    Jason Hammel (32)
    J.A. Happ (32) – $6.7MM club option
    Aaron Harang (37)
    Dan Haren (34) – $10MM player option
    Roberto Hernandez (34)
    Hisashi Iwakuma (34) – $7MM club option with a $1MM buyout
    Josh Johnson (31) – $4MM club option
    Kyle Kendrick (30)
    Hiroki Kuroda (40)
    Jon Lester (31)
    Colby Lewis (35)
    Francisco Liriano (31)
    Paul Maholm (33)
    Justin Masterson (30)
    Daisuke Matsuzaka (34)
    Brandon McCarthy (31)
    Brad Mills (29)
    Franklin Morales (29)
    Brandon Morrow (30) – $10MM club option with a $1MM buyout
    Felipe Paulino (31) – $4MM club option with a $250K buyout
    Jake Peavy (34)
    Wandy Rodriguez (36)
    Ervin Santana (32)
    Joe Saunders (34)
    Max Scherzer (30)
    James Shields (33)
    Misael Siverio (24)
    Kevin Slowey (31)
    Carlos Villanueva (31)
    Ryan Vogelsong (37)
    Edinson Volquez (30)
    Tsuyoshi Wada (34) – $5MM club option (no buyout)
    Jerome Williams (33)
    Randy Wolf (38)
    Chris Young (36)

    Adrian wrote an excellent piece about the Dodgers signing Brandon McCarthy. I agree, that McCarthy could be a great backend starting pitcher for the Dodgers in 2015. Familiar names like Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang, Edinson Volquez and Randy Wolf have already pitched in Dodger Blue, and I think the Dodgers can do better.

    Some backend rotation issues with the Dodgers put extra strain on their already shaky bullpen in 2014. The Dodgers have had numerous injuries to their starting pitchers over the past few seasons, and that’s one area of the roster they should add extra reinforcements going into the new season.

    The Dodgers will also look internationally to bolster their rotation like they did so in 2013 when they signed Hyun-jin Ryu. Right-hander Kenta Maeda pitched for the same Hiroshima Carp team which former Dodger Hiroki Kuroda pitched for in Japan. Maeda has an arsenal of pitches including a fastball, slider, curve, splitter and changeup. Maeda is smaller than Masahiro Tanaka, but he has been a reliable innings eater in Japan.

    Right-hander Chihiro Kaneko pitches for the Orix Buffaloes, and was a ERA leader in Nippon Professional Baseball in 2014. Kaneko may not want to pitch in the

    Zach Lee should be in the equation for 2015. They’ve held on to him for this long…Photo: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

    United States, but he deserves a look.

    Korean left-hander Kwang-Hyun Kim was once the league MVP in 2010 in the KBO. Like Ryu, Kim has suffered shoulder injuries which has limited his effectiveness. His velocity has been up after returning to have a good 2014, and he is an interesting option for a Major League team looking for a backend starter or reliever.

    The Giants aren’t planning to bring back Ryan Vogelsong next season. Disclaimer: I’m just throwing this out here, but perhaps he could be an option? He does strike out (151) a lot more than he walks (58). He did pitch poorly in the NLCS allowing 4 runs on 7 hits in 3 innings, but perhaps a one-year deal would be a cheap option for the Dodgers.

    Jon Lester and Max Scherzer are the big names in the free agent market this winter, but with the new Friedman Factor, I doubt the Dodgers make any big free agent signings this offseason. That doesn’t mean they couldn’t sign someone like James Shields.

    Shields is one of the most consistent starting pitchers in baseball, and he has helped the Royals get to their second World Series in franchise history. Shields would be available on a more affordable price than Scherzer or Lester. A four- year $60 million deal isn’t out of the question, but the Dodgers may not even want to invest that much this winter especially if they choose to bring back Hanley Ramirez. Yet, the connections are intriguing. The Tampa Bay Rays originally drafted Shields in 2000, and he is a So Cal native going to High School at Hart High School in Santa Clarita.

    The Rays traded Shields away after the 2011 season, but it would be interesting if he found himself on the Dodgers via a Andrew Friedman deal.

    The Dodgers do not need another frontline starter like Lester or Scherzer necessarily, but they do need reliability and consistency from the entire rotation in order to compete deep into the postseason. With minimal internal options, the Dodgers will have to shop in the free agent market or make a trade in order to acquire at least one more starting pitcher for 2015.

    The Dodgers made big headlines with their signing of Zack Greinke and their record setting deal to Clayton Kershaw, but now with a new baseball operations department, the Dodgers will likely try to streamline their payroll in order to make their business more efficient. That being said, the Dodgers should still use their financial powers to obtain free agent players when needed in order to shape the best team they can in order to win the World Series in 2015. I’d rather take a Shields over a Wolf, but we shall see what Andrew Friedman does in order to add pitching depth and reinforce the tradition of excellence in pitching which the franchise is historically known for.