Monday, November 26, 2012

If the Dodgers sign Zack Greinke, they'll need to trade a pitcher or two

You can never have too much pitching, but I think the Dodgers might take this notion a bit too far.

The Dodgers are considered the front-runners this winter by multiple sources for the services of Zack Greinke. With the Dodgers' rotation already full, someone is going to have to go if the team does indeed sign the right-hander.

But who?

The Dodgers have Clayton Kershaw, who absolutely isn't going anywhere. Other than him, the remaining five pitchers could all be trade candidates.

That leaves Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang, Josh Beckett, Ted Lilly and, yes, Chad Billingsley.

Let's break this down a bit.


The 34-year-old southpaw is coming off one of the best seasons of his career and probably has the most trade value of the five.

He was second to Kershaw in innings pitched (198 1/3), WHIP (1.22) and actually had the lowest walks per nine of all the Dodgers' starters (2.45). He was durable in his first season in Dodger Blue and would be attractive to a team looking for a back-end starter who's good for at least 175 innings.

Capuano has a somewhat friendly contract, as he's signed for $6 million for the 2013 season. He and the club also have a mutual option for 2014 at $8 million (or a $1 million buyout). He's guaranteed $7 million, which is a nice price for a No. 4 starter (FanGraphs valued his 2012 season at $9.4 million).

Trade possibility: 80 percent


The hulking right-hander had a perfectly mediocre 2012 season -- as mediocre as his pitching career, I suppose. But Harang, 34, does hold some value.

In his last nine seasons, he's failed to top 161 innings just once (2010). He's averaged 183 innings in that span. In his last two seasons, he's averaged 175 innings and a 102 ERA+, which is basically league-average.

Harang is signed for $7 million this season. He, like Capuano, has a mutual option for 2014 at $7 or $8 million ($2 million buyout). He's guaranteed $9 million, which makes him a little less valuable to a team looking for a No. 4 or 5 starter, despite the inflated value of pitching these days.

Trade possibility: 40 percent


The Dodgers acquired the former flamethrower in August as part of the Adrian Gonzalez deal. He enjoyed moderate success in 43 innings of work as a Dodger. His overall numbers left a lot to be desired, but his 2.93 ERA and 3.61 FIP gives me hope for him the upcoming season.

Beckett has enjoyed odd-year success in the majors, meaning every other year, he has a good or at least decent season.

He hasn't thrown more than 193 inning since 2009 (his age-29 season) and is no lock to even throw 180 innings (164 average in the last three seasons). That, coupled with his unfriendly contract make him a prime candidate to remain in Dodger Blue.

Beckett is signed for $15.75 million each of the last two seasons. For a guy with middle-of-the-rotation upside at this point in his career, that's too much dough for a team to take on.

Trade possibility: 15 percent (and that's being generous)


Lilly began the 2012 season on fire, as he was perhaps the biggest surprise of any Dodger starting pitcher. However, a horrendous outing in Arizona, coupled with a shoulder injury ended his season quite fast.

Shoulder injury: the two most frightening words to hear when referring to a starting pitcher. Lilly has never been a fireballer, but it remains to be seen if he can come back from the injury and be a starting pitcher.

If he does come back, the Dodgers would likely use him out of the bullpen as a swingman.

He was pretty decent in 2011 -- his first full season as a Dodger -- posting a 3.97 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and a 4.21 FIP. Not great, but not horrible, either.

Lilly had a no-trade clause for the first two years of his 3-year deal, but it has since expired. That doesn't mean he'll be traded, but at least the team doesn't have to get his permission to do so -- provided any team would take a chance on a 36-year-old coming off shoulder surgery.

Lilly makes $12 million this season in base salary and is due a $1.5 million signing bonus on April 1.

Trade possibility: 10 percent


Here is the wild card. In a recent episode of "Dugout Blues," Jared Massey (L.A. Dugout) mentioned Billingsley as a potential trade candidate. I hadn't thought much about it before then, but he's easily the best pitcher of the five and could bring back the most value.

Of course, Billingsley suffered an elbow injury late last season and had a platelet injection that, for now, has prevented him from having Tommy John surgery. In fact, if not for this injury, he'd be a lot more likely to be traded (to a team like the Royals, which is trying to bolster its starting rotation with veteran pitchers).

Despite having a workhorse-type body, Billingsley has topped 200 innings just once in his career (200 2/3 in 2008). He's always had a problem throwing strikes consistently, leading to his being removed from games in the fifth- and sixth innings. His stuff is second to just Kershaw in the Dodgers' rotation.

Billingsley signed a 3-year contract extension prior to the 2011 season. He's due $11 million this season, $12 million in 2014 and a $14 million club option for 2015 ($3 million buyout). He's due at least $26 million for the next two seasons. It's a solid price for a solid No. 3 starter with No. 2 ability.

All things being equal, I'd rather have Billingsley in the Dodgers' rotation than not. He has No. 2 starter ability, but pitches like a No. 4 starter at times. Still, a potential top-three of Kershaw-Greinke-Billingsley is quite appealing.

Trade percentage: < 5 percent

This doesn't even include Hyun-Jin Ryu, who isn't under contract yet. If the Dodgers do ink him to a deal -- and there's no reason to believe they wont -- he'll almost assuredly have a rotation spot.

If the Dodgers land Greinke, they will have to trade at least one of these guys. My money is on Capuano being that guy. He has the friendliest contract and the best track record of anyone not named Billingsley or odd-year Beckett. It'll be interesting to see what Ned Colletti and Co., do in the next couple months.

Photo credits
Capuano: EephusBlue, Paint the Corners
Billingsley: SD Dirk, Flickr


  1. Its going to be Capuano, probably to someone like the Orioles/Royals. Lilly will be the 2nd LH coming in the bullpen. That is a need for the Dodgers pitching staff. RH relievers are our specialty. LH relievers not so much. Behind Elbert, and Paco Rodriguez (if he stays in the majors) we have no one. Lilly can be that long reliever that every team needs. Picking up Greinke is our priority number 1. Pairing him with Kershaw, Beckett and Billingsley makes us one of the top pitching staffs in baseball. If Ryu comes in year 1 and has an ERA under 4.00 its just a bonus. I expect him to take 2/3 years to pan out.

  2. I would wait a while before I traded anyone. One day you have to many arms the next not enough. Billingsley, and Lilly's conditions are still unknown so I would hold on a while before I traded anyone away. Good post

    1. I agree, Evan, and were it not for Billingsley's uncertainty, this wouldn't even be an issue.

      I'm probably in the minority but I wish that Bill's would have had the TJ surgery when the damage was first discovered. Granted, I'm no doctor (but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express once) but bad elbows just don't suddenly get better. If he had the surgery immediately, he would have been ready for spring training 2014; but if he needs surgery at any time during 2013 (as I suspect he will), he will miss all of 2014.

      As you say, if I’m Ned Colletti, I’m not trading any starting pitchers just yet - unless it is for a better starting pitcher, say… like… Zack Greinke.

      Just my $0.02.

  3. What would we get back for Capuano?