Dodgers frugality in free agency validated with Justin Verlander-Mets debacle
The Los Angeles Dodgers experienced a bit of a rollercoaster on the offensive side of the ball in their season-opening series split against the Arizona Diamondbacks, but how about that pitching? All of Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urías, Dustin May and Noah Syndergaard carved up the snakes.
Though it feels good, are we really surprised? Though it's super early, can't you see this sustaining if the Dodgers get a few bounces on the injury front? It might sound crazy to say, but doesn't it feel like LA was smart to pass on high-priced free agents like Jacob deGrom and Justin Verlander ... and even Max Scherzer the offseason prior?
That could end up being a premature question, but the fact that Scherzer blew up in a playoff game last year ... and deGrom got rocked by the Phillies on Opening Day ... and Verlander had been struggling with control before landing on the IL to start the season, we could be on to something.
Verlander, specifically, might have Dodgers fans feeling like getting out-bid again by Steve Cohen wasn't the absolute worst thing. As long as LA wins the bidding war for Shohei Ohtani, all will be forgotten.
But in hindsight, even though the Dodgers needed pitching, $86 million for Verlander over two years was always going to be a risk for any team that landed the right-hander. Taking him out of Houston, where he's experienced one of the most notable resurgences in modern MLB history, was always going to serve as an obstacle rather than an enhancer.
Who knows what the folks in Houston have been doing since 2017. You know the findings of the cheating allegations didn't truly reveal everything ... just go ahead and read "Winning Fixes Everything" by Evan Drellich whenever you get the chance.
Dodgers might've made the right call passing on Justin Verlander
Verlander had a rock solid spring, but he uncharacteristically walked 10 batters in his 21 innings. Then it was revealed he was suffering from a low grade teres major strain, which is an issue with his shoulder/upper back.
The Dodgers losing Tony Gonsolin and Ryan Pepiot to ankle and oblique issues felt like a gut punch, and they're not even expected to be marquee members of the rotation. Imagine LA had brought in Verlander to pitch alongside Kershaw and Urías while serving as the high-profile top-of-the-rotation replacement come 2024 when the two lefties are free agents, and this was the start the tenure got off to?
Additionally, there was an encouraging element to the Dodgers' lack of risk-taking this offseason: it was a clear chance for them to see what they had in a number of their younger assets. If not now ... then when? Nobody would've complained with a Verlander addition, but it was perhaps smarter to avoid a logjam on that front (even though, yes, we know, you can never have too much starting pitching).
But hopefully the lack of a line in front of him convinces May he needs to be the next ace or co-ace in waiting. Maybe Thor's desire to recreate or rediscover himself gives LA the best value of the offseason. Maybe Pepiot and Michael Grove seal their fates with the team before 2023 concludes. Maybe this means a faster track for top prospects Bobby Miller and Gavin Stone. The Dodgers are quite literally experimenting with the possibilities and testing a number of others to determine if they can survive a worst-case scenario with Urías and Kershaw leaving in November.
If they prove they can, that means they just developed an entire new era of Dodgers pitching (and can further supplement it when the time comes). And if they can't? Well, more of a reason to spend every last penny on Ohtani, which they can do in the former scenario, too.
Instead of focusing on a poor Opening Day performance or injury issue with a blockbuster signing, the Dodgers are quietly, once again, setting the tone for boasting one of the best pitching staffs in MLB without much fuss from an investment/media coverage perspective.