Dodgers’ Justin Verlander buzz suggests different kind of free agency aggression
Last week, Los Angeles Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said starting pitching was “very high” on the team’s list of offseason priorities. That sentiment was fulfilled rather quickly when Clayton Kershaw was re-signed to a one-year deal.
But that was likely only the beginning. The Dodgers’ rotation for the 2023 season only consists of Kershaw, Julio Urías, Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May. Walker Buehler is out until 2024. All of Kershaw, Gonsolin and May have injury concerns or will be tasked with building their strength back up as a result of injuries suffered within the last year or so.
Though the Dodgers’ bats let them down once again this postseason, it’s also clear that Gonsolin may not be a steadfast playoff starter. The jury’s still out on May, too. That leaves Kershaw (who’s usually only good for five innings) and Urías as the only two reliable, experienced arms for five- and seven-game series.
So, while the Dodgers are in danger of losing one of the top shortstops in the game, they might be willing to absorb that in order to improve their pitching staff. There are internal options to immediately fix Trea Turner’s potential departure. There’s also enough offensive depth to not worry.
There aren’t any options to fill Buehler’s loss. There are others to maybe fill in as back-end options, but that’s not the goal for LA. That’s why Justin Verlander could be an option in free agency.
The Dodgers may reportedly chase Justin Verlander in free agency
Here’s what MLB insider Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic wrote in his latest column:
"“Verlander, who personally negotiated his free-agent deal with Astros owner Jim Crane while vacationing in Italy last offseason, seemed a good bet to re-sign quickly with Houston. But it has not happened, perhaps because Verlander sees the potential for lucrative opportunities with the Mets, Yankees and Dodgers, among others …“The Dodgers might pursue Verlander if Tyler Anderson rejects their $19.65 million qualifying offer — and heck, even if he accepts, too.”"
Of course, Anderson — a newly-minted Angel — is now off the table, too.
The Dodgers could bring Verlander in either way to deepen the rotation even more. The right-hander is clearly looking to join a contender willing to pay, and all three of the teams mentioned above could easily out-bid the Astros.
How about a rotation of …
- Clayton Kershaw
- Justin Verlander
- Julio Urías
- Tyler Anderson
- Tony Gonsolin/Dustin May/Andrew Heaney
Now THAT’S built for the postseason. Even without Anderson, the Dodgers will have a fearful top three with the addition of Verlander. Now, the only problem is how much the likely AL Cy Young winner is looking for. Does he want Max Scherzer’s $43.33 million AAV? Does he want something in the $30-$35 million range? Either way, the Dodgers can afford it, especially since it’ll be a short-term deal.
If they’re not looking to add another $175+ million contract to their payroll, then going for it with older players who don’t require larger commitments might be the way to maximize this championship window. The Dodgers have room to spend and assets to trade, but they likely want to remain flexible instead of having their next 4-5 seasons defined by 4-5 players atop the payroll.
Verlander on a two-year contract and Anderson on the QO fits that philosophy. Maybe a veteran like Michael Brantley, too? A couple of trades for controllable assets?
It’s a bit different, but it might just be the perfect formula many weren’t thinking of just a few weeks ago.