If the Los Angeles Dodgers were unwilling to go beyond two years and $72 million for Max Scherzer last offseason, there was a good chance their “involvement” in the Justin Verlander market was nothing more than them waiting for the price they wanted.
Early reports suggested Verlander was using Scherzer’s three-year, $130 million deal as a comp, which … nobody could argue with. He just won a unanimous Cy Young and a World Series. He’s been pitching even better as he’s gotten older. Not much negotiating was to be done.
In the end, Verlander got a two-year, $86.66 million contract from the New York Mets, which is the same record-setting AAV as Scherzer. The deal also comes with a vesting option for the 2025 season — also something the Dodgers probably wouldn’t have been willing to include.
The only logical path for the Dodgers to acquire more pitching, though, is by spending money, because it seems they’re committed to moving forward with their young core of position player prospects who will make up the foundation of the team’s next era of baseball.
You can rule out a trade for Corbin Burnes, in that case. Andrew Friedman probably isn’t paying for Pablo Lopez, either. There are other options out there the front office could shock us with, but why not just swipe Carlos Rodon off the market right now and get it over with?
Dodgers should throw the bag at Carlos Rodon after losing Justin Verlander
Rumor has it Rodon is seeking a six-year contract in the $180 million range. He’s a client of agent Scott Boras, whom the Dodgers famously refuse to deal with. So that’s one obstacle.
The second is Rodon’s injury history. He has never pitched 200 innings in a season since debuting in 2015. He’s made 30 or more starts just once. He never registered anything below a 3.75 ERA until the 2021 season. And even in his back-to-back All-Star campaigns the last two years, e’s only thrown 310.2 innings.
If Clayton Kershaw, who’s essentially been just as disappointingly durable since 2016, has made $37 million total the last two years, Rodon seeking $30 million per is a beyond outlandish ask, regardless of his age. There’s a good chance his market doesn’t materialize … unless the bidding war for Aaron Judge between the Giants and Yankees gets so intense that one of those teams will also need to overpay for another top pitcher to convince Judge to sign with them.
Should the market not materialize, that’s where the Dodgers can strike. Maybe it’s a six-year deal for less money. Maybe it’s a short-term, high AAV deal (they could give Rodon the Trevor Bauer contract and likely be content with it).
Previously, the Rangers were believed to be the top suitors for Rodon, but they signed Jacob deGrom to a risky $185 million contract. There’s no way they’ll take another such risk and give Rodon similar money.
LA needs to monitor this market closely and strike when the time is right. They need pitching with Kershaw on a one-year deal, Walker Buehler out for 2023, Tyler Anderson gone, and Julio Urías, another Boras client, hitting free agency after 2023.
If they have to overpay for Rodon, then so be it. Unless they’re gearing up for a Shohei Ohtani/Lucas Giolito/Aaron Nola combo pairing next year, they need to address the rotation for 2024 and beyond as early as this offseason. And something tells us it’ll be really hard to get two of those three options next year in what’ll be another top-heavy free agent class.