Dodgers face conundrum with Brewers star Brandon Woodruff now a free agent

Double down? Or take the money and run?
Milwaukee Brewers v Miami Marlins
Milwaukee Brewers v Miami Marlins / Carmen Mandato/GettyImages

When the Milwaukee Brewers shockingly (but logically) non-tendered star pitcher Brandon Woodruff last week, some Los Angeles Dodgers fans rushed to the front of the line to scream, "Sign this man right now!"

Then there was a contingent of fans opposed to the idea (or was at least skeptical of the hypocrisy) because the Dodgers have failed countless times with injury reclamation projects. There's been a ton of outcry as a result.

But could this be the exception to the process that needs to be axed from the organization's annual practices? Woodruff returned late in the 2023 season after a layoff from a shoulder injury to make 11 incredible starts. He pitched to a 2.28 ERA, 3.60 FIP and 0.82 WHIP. But then the shoulder barked again, and that was it.

In late September, Woodruff was ruled out for the postseason, all but officially delivering the death knell Milwaukee couldn't afford. It was later determined he would need surgery and there's a possibility he could miss all of 2024.

How does this help the Dodgers? How does this assist them in getting away from something that's contributed to their October struggles the last few years?

Dodgers face conundrum with Brewers star Brandon Woodruff now a free agent

The answers? It doesn't help the Dodgers in 2024. It doesn't help them kick this poor habit. But, if implemented differently, it might be the answer to the formula the front office has been trying to crack since 2019.

Woodruff has done nothing but perform since debuting in 2017. He owns a career 3.10 ERA, 3.19 FIP and 1.05 WHIP in 130 games (115 starts), totaling 680.1 innings. He is the definition of a No. 2 starter that could be had for No. 5 money.

But the only way for the Dodgers to make this work is by 1) not letting the expenditure (two years, $18 million?) affect future spending and 2) not factoring Woodruff into their primary plans for 2024 and 2025. This is nothing but an added luxury made possible by unique spending power. It's what a behemoth contender does to dwarf the rest of the league. If Woodruff returns to pitch like an All-Star alongside a number of other fearsome arms, the Dodgers are a wrecking ball. If he doesn't return and the Dodgers still make the pitching signings they need to, it's like nothing ever happened.

This should be simple. There shouldn't be any concern about exceeding a certain tax threshold. The Dodgers have the highest attendance in baseball. They have two icons in Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman, and we can expect a third back in the fold in Clayton Kershaw soon enough.

Time to act like the Dodgers and make the correct, useful investment in a high-ceiling injury reclamation project.