Dodgers: Does Los Angeles Need to Add More Pitching?
By Brook Smith
The Dodgers completed a trade for another right-handed prospect on Tuesday morning, acquiring Dylan Baker. There is speculation that they may not be done adding to their pitching staff.
If the Dodgers do indeed let Yu Darvish sign with another team, there are a lot of questions that will follow. The biggest question though-who is going to fill out the rotation? As we move on into a new year filled with all sorts of playoff hopes, the front office has been realistic. They are not prepared to get into a bidding war over Darvish. Especially considering they just cut their payroll back below luxury tax levels. It now seems incredibly unlikely that Los Angeles resigns the right-handed ace.
For 2018, there are a few questions surrounding the Dodgers roster. Most important is figuring out what the rotation looks like behind Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill. Alex Wood should have a starting spot again as long as the team doesn’t dangle him as trade bait. Maeda and Ryu were surprisingly efficient in relief roles down the stretch, so the Dodgers have some flexibility there. Recent addition Tom Koehler will more than likely be coming out of the bullpen in 2018. And then the staff starts to get really young after that.
Julio Urias will return from a shoulder injury in 2018, but will have to ease back into a full-time starting position. It seems fairly likely he’ll see time out of the bullpen to ease the transition, so consider him a late-season addition to be safe. Walker Buehler is the next logical young arm in line for a starting spot, but he may be used very similarly to how Urias was before his injury. The Dodgers eased Urias in gradually, not giving him a ton of work up front. Buehler could be used mostly out of the bullpen later in the season to give them some fire power.
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After those guys, there are also some spot starters available. These guys are also extremely valuable as long relievers. Brock Stewart and Ross Stripling are certainly used to this role by now, jumping around from AAA to the big league club fairly often. Trevor Oaks appears to be a young guy that could be destined for a similar role. Recent addition Henry Owens could also fill a similar role if starting is not in his future.
In terms of the bullpen, they have all of those guys mentioned as potential late-inning options. Pedro Baez is still on the team, so don’t forget about him. The only real issue is that Los Angeles lacks a bridge to Kenley Jansen. So far, we have seen the Dodgers bounce around, changing their setup man almost every season since Jansen took over the ninth inning. So unless they are depending on a candidate to emerge in spring training, you can be sure a trade or free agent signing is on the horizon. Consider a few of these options:
-Trevor Rosenthal: injured for 2018, but a great value for 2019
-Greg Holland: If he will take the setup role, why not?
-Addison Reed: success as a closer and setup man
Next: Dodgers add Mark Prior and Dylan Baker
While none of these guys will really be cheap, they are solid options to nail down close games. The Dodgers have historically looked for the diamonds in the rough, but it may be time to invest. If they can somehow manage to cut ties with Matt Kemp entirely, this would give them a whole lot of flexibility with payroll. That’s a huge “if”, but here’s hoping.