Chad Billingsley, Free Agent
Long-tenured Dodger right-hander Chad Billingsley‘s $14 million option for 2015 was declined by the Dodgers on Friday. The Dodgers instead chose to pay $3 million for the buyout option. Chad Billingsley has not pitched in a Major League game for the Dodgers since April 15, 2013.
Bills has undergone two elbow surgeries including Tommy John surgery in April 2013. He then had a subsequent elbow surgery a year later after he tore a flexor tendon during rehab. Billingsley is expected to be ready by Spring Training 2015, but it is unclear whether the Dodgers will re-sign Billingsley or if he will move on to a new team.
The Dodgers is the only team Billingsley has ever known. Drafted in the first round of the 2003 draft (24th overall pick) out of Defiance, Ohio, Chad was one of the core Dodgers to come up during the 2005/2006 seasons. He was a solid part of the Dodger rotation for seven seasons until he bowed out early in 2013 with a torn pitching elbow which eventually led to Tommy John reconstructive surgery.
I was very excited to see Chad Billingsley back on the mound this past Spring after rehabbing for a year. Unfortunately Bills would not be able to pitch for the Dodgers in 2014 after ending his bid for a return when he succumbed to a partially torn flexor tendon in his surgically repaired elbow. In hindsight, losing Bills was a big blow for the Dodgers in 2014. The Dodgers also would lose Josh Beckett and Paul Maholm to season-ending injuries during the season. Hyun-jin Ryu had shoulder problems, Clayton Kershaw missed six weeks with a shoulder injury and even Zack Greinke‘s elbow was a bit sore during the year. Dan Haren was well… Dan Haren.
Losing Bills was disappointing since I was really rooting for him to slot back into the Dodger rotation.
Apr 15, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Chad Billingsley delivers a pitch against the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
"“I’m flustered,” said Billingsley. “This is not the way I wanted to spend two years of my life in rehab.”"
While some may feel that Billingsley was a frustrating pitcher to watch at times, I was always a Bills fan. I thought he pitched solidly for the Dodgers from 2006-2012. His best season was in 2008 when he went 16-10 with a 3.14 ERA with 201 strikeouts over 200 2/3 innings.
He was an All-Star the next season. Even though he never quite repeated his 2008 season, he won double digit games for the Dodgers over the next 4 seasons. Many of his losses was due to low run support. I attended a game where Bills pitched an eight-inning one-hitter with eight strikeouts back on May 14, 2011, and the Dodgers still lost to the D-backs 3-2.
If you remember, I stirred up the Billingsley haters when I wrote about Bills over a year ago, but I still feel that he could be a good pitcher for the Dodgers in 2015 if healthy.
Bringing back Bills on a less expensive contract could be a viable option for the Dodgers who are in need of a fifth starter going into 2015. Even an invite to Spring Training as a non-roster invite could be an option if Billingsley doesn’t sign elsewhere.
While Billingsley never panned out to be the second tier starter behind Clayton Kershaw that everyone was expecting him to be, Billingsley still has a strong pitching repertoire which could benefit the Dodgers if he’s healthy.
The Dodgers’ starting rotation so far for 2015 is Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-jin Ryu and Dan Haren.
If Chad Billingsley is healthy, he is always better than a Paul Maholm, a Roberto Hernandez or a Kevin Correia. The question will be whether the Dodgers want to take a chance on Bills or not. With big salaries already going to Kershaw and Greinke, the Dodgers could look within their minor league system for a fifth starter or perhaps sign someone like Billingsley for a much less significant contract than some of the other free agent pitchers available.
Perhaps I’m just sentimental, but there’s something that feels nostalgic about a Dodger team which still has Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw, Andre Ethier, Scott Elbert and Chad Billingsley on the roster. Bring back Russell Martin, and the band would be back together.