The Mark Prior Pitching Factory has been proven, in recent years, to have the ability to turn any also-ran into an All-Star starting pitcher.
But that’s no reason to shy away from paying the $39 million saved by letting Tyler Anderson walk from the Dodgers to the Angels to a top-tier starting pitching option.
For as effective as Prior’s been in crafting Anderson, Andrew Heaney, and Tony Gonsolin, the Dodgers entered the 2022 postseason not believing in a single one of their rotation options to provide length beyond Julio Urías and, to an extent, Clayton Kershaw. Gonsolin floundered immediately in San Diego. Anderson dominated, but was pulled before the first sign of trouble, in accordance with the team’s stated plan.
Without Walker Buehler in 2023, next season is poised to look like more of the same, regular season success be damned.
Sure, Anderson is replaceable. There will be a “next in line” bargain-bin pitcher who’ll emerge under Prior’s tutelage and make a massive leap. But when push comes to shove in October, the Dodgers need someone who … well, who shoves. That won’t be Anderson 2.0. That needs to be Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander or Carlos Rodón.
The Dodgers didn’t need to pay Anderson $13 million annually to do an exceptional job that could be replaced in the aggregate. But they certainly need to pay all $39 million to a true hoss who will strike fear in the heart of LA’s postseason opponents.
They don’t need Blake Snell Lite. Someone who can dominate, but who isn’t trusted to go deep into games and is typically removed by Kevin Cash’s kid gloves in, let’s just say, the middle of the sixth inning in Game 6 of the World Series. Just a hypothetical.
That management style works in the regular season. It might help you steal a few games in the grand scheme of a 162-game season, where success is predicated on depth. But you can’t have sustainable playoff success without aces you can trust. The 2009-2019 Dodgers lived that reality. The 2022 Dodgers, their evolutionary cousins, were just dealt a harsh reminder. Yet fans still believe that Anderson can be replaced by Another Anderson, without freed-up resources being allocated towards a rotation bulldog.
The Dodgers have far more options in reserve to cover the potential loss of Trea and Justin Turner on offense than they do to patch up a rotation that desperately needs another frontman (at least in the immediate short-term). Did anyone watch the 2022 postseason offense and think, “Yes. This must be brought back, whole cloth”? The Dodgers will hit, but importing new blood into the lineup, from Miguel Vargas to James Outman, wouldn’t be the worst idea.
This lineup doesn’t demand additional star power to thrive. This rotation does. It’s time to stop getting cute, and start getting deGrom.
Before the Texas Rangers do and waste his talents.