Dodgers: Should the Dodgers Pursue a Starting Pitcher This Off-Season?
The Dodgers will head to spring training in 2019 already loaded with a surplus of starting pitchers. Despite that, there are many questions surrounding the rotation.
The Dodgers were already stocked with plenty of starting pitchers before Hyun-Jin Ryu decided to accept the Dodgers’ qualifying offer and once he did, the Dodgers are already at least eight deep when it comes to starting pitchers. Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda, Julio Urias, Ross Stripling, and Alex Wood are among the candidates to make starts for the Dodgers next season.
The idea of pursuing another starting pitcher might not make sense on the surface, but it’s important to remember that the Dodgers are in World Series or bust mode. With their current rotation, there are plenty of questions for next October. Will Kershaw’s fastball continue to dip in velocity? Will Rich Hill who turns 39 before next season hold up to the rigors of another long season? Kenta Maeda and Ross Stripling seem to lose effectiveness when their workload is extended and Julio Urias will likely be limited to begin the 2019 season.
When looking beyond the scope of just the 2019 season there is also the fact that Alex Wood, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Rich Hill will all be free agents after next season and Wood will likely depart while Hill is likely going to retire. That would leave the Dodgers with Walker Buehler, an aging Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urias, Ross Stripling (if he isn’t traded), and an abundance of talented but unproven pitching prospects. While the focus is 2019, it’s still worth keeping a view beyond the scope of one season.
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The Dodgers have discussed trade scenarios with the Cleveland Indians this off-season so Andrew Friedman is clearly keeping a heavy focus on what the Dodgers’ playoff rotation would look like. As it currently stands the Dodgers have Walker Buehler and Rich Hill who have proven to be good playoff performers but then there is Hyun-Jin Ryu who struggles away from Dodger Stadium.
Then there is Clayton Kershaw, which we all know about his playoff struggles and with his fastball velocity declining that will only make things tougher in October. Acquiring a top-tier starting pitcher is something the Dodgers shouldn’t rule out even with their surplus of starting pitchers. If the Dodgers can add an elite starting pitcher like Corey Kluber or even Trevor Bauer, that would strengthen the Dodgers’ playoff rotation and also take pressure off Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw.
The Dodgers have lost two World Series in a row so while their approach is working to an extent, they still need some additional pieces to get them over the hump. Relying on the same four starting pitchers next October in Buehler, Kershaw, Ryu, and Hill could be another recipe for coming up short.
If the Dodgers could acquire another top-tier starter that would allow them a better shot of finishing the job in 2019. While the Dodgers have plenty of quality arms, they shouldn’t pass on a chance to upgrade the rotation if an opportunity presents itself. The Dodgers’ rotation put up an ERA over five in the 2017 World Series and an ERA over four in this year’s fall classic. While the rotation isn’t the primary reason the Dodgers’ have lost two consecutive World Series, it is part of the equation.