The Dodgers off-season was moving at a snails pace until Saturday when the Dodgers unloaded Adrian Gonzalez, Brandon McCarthy, and Scott Kazmir.
The Dodgers made their first signing of the off-season when they signed Tom Koehler on Friday. Other than Koehler, the Dodgers have not made any other transaction this winter. While the hot stove has been turned off for the Dodgers, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The Dodgers have an abundance of young pitching that they need to utilize.
The Dodgers have several young starting pitchers that are in limbo on where they stand in the Dodgers’ plans. Some of those starting pitchers are Brock Stewart, Trevor Oaks, and Ross Stripling. For Stripling he has been holding down the swing man role in the bullpen but he is originally a starting pitcher. At some point he could get a chance to start. Brock Stewart and Trevor Oaks are two starting pitchers that may need to transition to the bullpen.
Stewart and Oaks are not old but for prospect standards they are getting older. Stewart will be 27 years old next year and Trevor Oaks will turn 25 years old before the 2018 season starts. Unless injuries arise the Dodgers have too many starting pitchers that are ahead of Stewart and Oaks. If there is a young pitcher that deserves a shot in the rotation next year it’s Walker Buehler. This means the Dodgers need to trade or find a role in the bullpen for Oaks and Stewart.
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Given the reliever market where just about every reliever is getting at least two years and seven million or more a season, the Dodgers could save money and give their young pitchers a chance in the big leagues by sticking them in the bullpen. Especially Brock Stewart who throws in the mid 90’s as a starting pitcher, he may shine even more in the bullpen. Just as Kenta Maeda became a weapon out of the bullpen in this post-season, Stewart could be even better out of the bullpen since he could most likely reach 97-98 out of the bullpen to go with his biting slider.
Trevor Oaks is a ground ball pitcher so he wouldn’t project as a late inning relief option but he could take over Ross Stripling’s swingman role if the Dodgers want to put Stripling into a late inning role. Stripling has pitched in many high leverage situations since he comes in for extra innings in many games when the game is on the line. If the Dodgers move Stripling into a setup role then Trevor Oaks is the perfect candidate to be the long reliever in the bullpen.
Walker Buehler is the Dodgers’ most talented young pitcher so he could start the season in the rotation. The problem with that is the Dodgers will likely limit his innings and with the depth of veteran starters that the Dodgers have, Buehler might not start the season with the Dodgers. The Dodgers could ease Buehler into the major leagues by using him as a reliever. Buehler has lightning stuff and could throw 98-99 out of the bullpen with a hammer curve.
The Dodgers trade for Matt Kemp on Saturday narrows down the field of starting rotation candidates. With Brandon McCarthy now a member of the Atlanta Braves the main candidates for the final two rotation spots are Kenta Maeda, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Walker Buehler, and Brock Stewart. That could change if the Dodgers bring in another starting pitcher but the Dodgers main concern seems to be cutting costs.
Regardless of what roles the Dodgers decide to put their young pitchers in, it’s time for them to trust their own pitchers. Rather than trying to find bargain bin relievers the Dodgers could trust the talent of their young pitchers. If they don’t pan out then the Dodgers could trade for a reliever but if they do work out then the Dodgers will have young affordable relievers who are under team control for many years to come. Forget the bargain shopping, it’s time to roll with the young pitchers the Dodgers have in reserve.