Dodgers Need to Shift Their Focus to Finding a Starting Pitcher

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 08: Chris Archer
BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 08: Chris Archer /

The Dodgers are in the conversation for both Shohei Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton. While those two young stars are dominating the headlines of the MLB offseason, the front office should start shifting their focus to another area of need.

Stanton and Ohtani are great power hitters. Stanton proved that in his 2017 season and Ohtani is a growing myth that is polarizing the entire MLB landscape. While the Dodgers figure to be front-runners to land one of those players, I’m concerned the front office is ignoring a bigger issue.

The Dodgers aren’t losing many key pieces this offseason in free agency. Brandon Morrow, Tony Watson, and Yu Darvish headline the list of Dodger free agents that played a pivotal role in the team’s success last season. To lose one or each of these three players will be difficult for the front office to replace, starting with Yu Darvish.

Darvish left Dodger fans with a sour taste in their mouth after two dreadful starts that cost the Dodgers a championship. So it’s justifiable why the fans would not want Darvish back in a Dodger uniform. But is that really the end of the conversation when it comes to finding a right-handed starter to back Kershaw?

Let’s be honest; the Dodgers rotation is backloaded with an excess of starting pitchers that have failed to remain healthy for a full MLB season. So that explains why the front office is highly invested in Ohtani’s two-way capabilities. Brandon McCarthy, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and even Rich Hill are all starters with durability questions. Heading into the season, Roberts can feel comfortable throwing out a rotation of Kershaw, Hill, Wood, Maeda, and a combination of McCarthy and Ryu. But they should look to improve that rotation.

As Dodger fans, we know that these pitchers have potential to be quality starters for the team, but have yet to see them stay pitch consistently for a full season. Also, this is a rotation that would consist of four left-handed starting pitchers, and that’s not ideal. There’s a severe need for a right-handed front of the rotation starter. Whether that is Yu Darvish or not, if the front office is addressing any of the team needs, this should be priority number 1.

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The right-handed starting pitching market is bleak this free agency. Darvish figures to be the big fish, and Jake Arrieta is the other big name available. The problem is those aren’t guys are going to demand a lot of money and don’t exactly fit the bill of what the Dodgers are trying to do. Well, that’s where the front office needs to get creative and look at the trade market to see what improvements the team can make via a trade.

My colleague Hector Ponce wrote a great piece last week listing six different starting pitchers the Dodgers could trade for this offseason. Coincidently, they were each right-handed pitchers at the top of their team’s rotation. He made a solid case for all six starters, but the one who caught my eye was Chris Archer.

Archer and Andrew Friedman have ties through the Friedman’s former employer the Tampa Bay Rays. He’s set to turn 29 next season and is set to make less than $10M annually over the next two seasons ($6.25M in 2018 and $7.5M in 2019). His affordable contract makes him an appealing option for the Dodgers front office.

He has yet to put his skillset altogether as he’s coming off of back to back seasons with an ERA over 4.00. That’s not ideal for a number two starter, but his innings pitched is encouraging, having surpassed 190 innings and strikeouts in his last four seasons.

He’s been a model of consistency for the Rays as their number one and would benefit from the coaching of Rick Honeycutt and by pitching in the NL against the opposing team’s number two starter. Archer fits the mold for the ideal candidate to help balance the Dodgers rotation. If the front office is looking to engage in trades this winter I hope they make a gesture to bring Archer to LA.

Of course, I understand the front office’s prioritizing Ohtani as the starting point of this offseason. All trades could be avoided if our ownership perfects their pitch to Ohtani today and sign the international right-hander. There are still concerns about whether Ohtani can truly hit in the state, but we know his fastball has been clocked as high as 100MPH.

Next: Yu Darvish 2017 Season

That power arm will help bring the balance the Dodgers need atop of their rotation, so I’m glad the Dodgers are among the seven teams still in the Ohtani sweepstakes. If they land Ohtani that may be all the Dodgers need to upgrade their team. However, there has to be some uncertainty with Ohtani given his health issues last season and his inexperience pitching against MLB competition. I’m all for signing Ohtani, but it’s worth noting that the best immediate upgrade would be by trading for a player like Archer.