Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Dodgers' SP alternatives to signing Masahiro Tanaka aren't great

Everyone assumes the Dodgers are going to sign Masahiro Tanaka this winter. It's a reasonable assumption. But what happens if the Dodgers don't end up with the 25-year-old Japanese righty?

The new posting system, which was reportedly agreed upon before MLB pulled the offer last week, has been delayed again. Reports now say Tanaka might not be posted until the end of the year (six weeks). The Dodgers can't really sit back and wait for an unsure acquisition, unless they're going to post $100 million, pretty much assuring they'll have the right to negotiate with him.

Then again, the Yankees are desperate for starting pitching and want to keep payroll at less than $189 million to avoid a ridiculous luxury tax. The posting fee isn't included in the payroll.

Many (myself included) think David Price is option No. 2. But recent news is making me question that. 

Stan Kasten and Co., seem hell-bent on building through the farm system -- which is awesome. To acquire Price, the number of high-celing prospects going to Tampa Bay would be prohibitive with Kasten's philosophy.

So, who's next on the list?

We can cross off guys like Ubaldo Jimenez, Hiroki Kuroda and Ervin Santana off the list, as they received qualifying offers from their teams, which means the Dodgers would have to forfeit their first-round draft pick to sign either one. While both Kuroda and Santana are quality pitchers (Jimenez not so much), it just isn't worth it.

If Kuroda didn't have draft pick compensation tied to him, he'd be near the top of my list of free agent targets.

That leaves pitchers like Bronson Arroyo, Bartolo Colon, Scott Feldman, Matt Garza, Dan Haren, Josh Johnson, Scott Kazmir, Ricky Nolasco and Jason Vargas available on the free agent market. Let's look at each of these guys.

- Soft-tossing righty with propensity to give up home runs. Dodgers have reportedly been in contact. Don't really want him in Blue.

- On the wrong side of 30 (he'll be 41 in May) and the wrong side of 275 pounds. Had a great 2013, but can't be counted on.

- Should be a nice cost-effective starter, but he'll be massively overpaid by a team desperate for starting pitching.

- The most talented/healthy free agent starter (and the biggest jerkstore), Garza is going to get a 4-year commitment at or more than $15 million per season. The Dodgers could afford it, but they might not want to pay it. Had interest in him in 2012.

- As a No. 5 starter, he'd be a great pickup. As a No. 4 starter, maybe not so much. Had a resurgent second half in Washington and might do well coming home.

- Johnson has ace potential, but he's never been able to stay healthy and had a miserable year north of the border. He'll sign a pillow contract (1-year deal to re-establish value) with someone. San Diego and San Francisco are interested.

- Reclamation project who struck out more than a batter per inning in 2013. Cleveland would love to bring him back. More of a high-risk signing for the Dodgers.

- He'd be a fine No. 4 starter for the Dodgers. Problem is, there are teams lining up to give him big money on 3- and/or 4-year deals. Reports say the Padres, Phillies and Twins are in on him, as well as 'Frisco (maybe not so much now after signing Tim Hudson).

- Pitched in Anaheim last year and was pretty decent (but not anywhere close to Zack Greinke). Angels need pitching perhaps more than any team in baseball. I'm betting he goes back there.

As for trade targets, teams aren't exactly rushing to trade good starters. Price is out there, the Cardinals have about eleventy billion starters (but most are cost-effective and really good), and the Phillies have some high-priced hurlers they should trade, but won't (see Marlon Byrd and Carlos Ruiz signings). There's also some scuttlebutt the Mariners might trade Hisashi Iwakuma to improve offensively, but I'm not so sure the Dodgers match up that well. Andre Ethier or Matt Kemp would be logical targets for Seattle.

The Dodgers could also turn to the farm system. Zach Lee is not only the Dodger starting pitching prospect closest to the majors, he's the best. With Josh Beckett on track for opening day (we'll see about that), the Dodgers need at least one pitcher. Maybe Lee is that guy.

Another starter close to the majors is Ross Stripling. He's similar to Lee in terms of frame, repertoire and maturity, but he might need a little more seasoning in Double-A.

Chris Reed also pitched at Double-A last season, but I'm not at all confident in him being in the rotation in 2014 (or ever, really).

Guys like 2013 draft picks Chris Anderson and Tom Windle are at least a year away from contributing in the rotation (and that's being optimistic), while Julio Urias is at least two years away.

Onelki Garcia looks like a reliever at this point and Matt Magill (or McGill, if you listen to Jim Bowden)  wasn't great in his debut. I still have faith in him, but he might be better off coming out of the bullpen in the majors. Stphen Fife and Red Patterson are extreme longshots.

No matter what the Dodgers decide to do, they'll need at least one addition to the rotation (maybe two). Chad Billingsley is due back midseason, but I'm guessing he'll get the lion's share of his work out of the bullpen when he comes back.

Photo credits
Arroyo: SD Dirk, Flickr
Stripling: Dustin Nosler, Feelin' Kinda Blue

1 comment:

  1. I think Nolasco's waiting to be the fallback option if Dodgers don't get Tanaka, and signs for 1-2 years.