With the news that Dodgers‘ ace Clayton Kershaw arrived on the disabled list with a lower-back strain, the troubling pattern of increasing—and more severe—injuries reared its ugly head yet again. I’m not in Kershaw’s shoes, so I cannot advise him on what he should or should not do. But I can certainly say that I am concerned about his long-term health, both as a fan and as a fellow human being.
Fortunately, the MRI came back as only a muscle strain and not something more drastic. His timetable to return is unknown, although skipper Dave Roberts implied it would likely exceed four weeks. In the corresponding move, Brock Stewart was called up to join the pitching staff while rumors have surfaced that young southpaw Caleb Ferguson will be joining the team in Pittsburgh to potentially make his big league debut..
Personally, I would not be opposed to the Dodgers trading for a starting pitcher near the All-Star break as both Hyun-Jin Ryu and Julio Urias are still on the DL and won’t return anytime soon. Furthermore, with Urias rehabbing from major shoulder surgery, there’s no guarantee as to how effective he will be, at least as far as 2018 goes. However, if the club does make a trade, the price to pay will be steeper than normal, perhaps involving moving a few of the organization’s top prospects like Dennis Santana, Alex Verdugo, or both, depending on the prospective target.
Currently, the count is as follows for Dodgers’ starters on the DL: Kershaw, Ryu, Urias, Kenta Maeda and Rich Hill. As far as trading for a pitcher goes, the focus doesn’t necessarily have to be a starter, but rather somebody who’s capable of eating plenty of innings. Perhaps someone like J.A. Happ or Marco Estrada of the Blue Jays could be had. As crazy as it sounds, maybe Bartolo Colon of the Rangers could be acquired as he would come relatively cheap. If the team wants to go higher end, they could pursue Michael Fulmer and try to pry him away from Detroit. Or the Dodgers may have some pitcher in mind that’s under everyone’s radar but they have their eye on.
Perhaps the Dodgers stand pat when it’s all said and done and use the resources in the organization. Looking ahead, Santana could emerge as a quality starter with front-end potential. Both Walker Buehler and Ross Stripling have been pitching lights-out this month. Hill should return shortly from his blister issues. Alex Wood should be able to turn it around at some point—he’ll be fine with maybe brief resting period at some point down the road. I’m not holding my breath, but Stewart might end up being that innings-eater that saves the pen from overwork. The rotation for the foreseeable future could conceivably consist of Buehler, Hill, Stripling, Wood, and Santana.
The way I see it is this—fans may be getting their first glimpse into the post-Kershaw era. Kersh has been great—the best pitcher of this generation. He’s given us many thrills, including that incredible 2014 season in which he was so dominant in winning the NL Cy Young Award and the NL MVP. Oh, and he also threw his only no-hitter that season vs. the Rockies.
Nevertheless, the Dodgers should start preparing for life after Kershaw right now. The time will come soon, maybe sooner than we think, when Kershaw either leaves Los Angeles or announces his retirement .
Father Time is approaching and his footsteps are getting louder.
4 thoughts on “Dodgers Roster: How Clayton Kershaw’s Health Affects the Future of the Rotation”
Truthfully speaking, I don’t see Santana as a future frontline starter as he lacks the ideal body type to make his stuff play up in that role on a full-time basis. If he manages to fill out his very lean frame to the level of a Jacob deGrom, however, could swing the odds back in his favor for a change. We shall see how the club handles his development in the meantime, but that arm of his is certainly not in question at this point. I like that he can handle the bat pretty well, too!
And as for Kershaw, he really should stop wasting management’s time this season and either shut it down to get that long-overdue surgery on his lower back…or announce his medical retirement if he chooses not to go under the knife. He had his one last shot to get the WS title off his bucket list last year, but couldn’t close the deal in that pivotal Game 5. Can’t believe I’m saying this, but he could wind up becoming the Elgin Baylor of the Dodger franchise when all’s said and done. What an unpleasant distinction to live with, I truly feel for the guy myself…
Santana wouldn’t be the first guy who wasn’t expected to succeed because of body type. For example, Mr. Lasorda thought Pedro Martinez wouldn’t hold up as a starter so he traded him. Not exactly the best decision Tommy ever made. Watching Santana reminds me a little of Pedro’s brother Ramon, long and skinny. Ramon had a very nice career. Time may prove you correct Manuel, but I’m hoping you aren’t because in my book a really good starter is still more valuable than a really good reliever. If we can believe the FO, Kershaw’s problem is a back strain and I don’t think surgery would help that any. At this point, half a season of a healthy Kershaw is probably still worth having, although the writing certainly seems on the wall here. With regard to pitchers available in trade, we shouldn’t forget about Tyson Ross with the Padres who is having a very nice year and whose salary is only 1.7 million. He’s a free agent after this season, so it shouldn’t cost the entire farm system to get him if Friedman and friends decide they actually need to get another starter in July.
That’s alright if you agree to disagree with me regarding whether Santana can make it long-term as a starter or not (and time WILL prove me correct, btw-LOL), that’s what this forum’s meant to be: a place for open discussion. And it’s more than just a back strain for Kershaw, to be honest here. Ever since he took up that hesitation delivery he adopted from former teammate Dan Haren back in 2014, it’s been a steady stream of back-related issues ever since and unless he finally undergoes surgery to fix that still-bulging disc in his lower back and completely overhauls his delivery so he throws more fluidly like he did prior to that season he’s not gonna have much of playing career left after this year.
Yes, let’s agree to disagree on Santana. The great thing about this website (thank you Dennis!) is that we can have these discussions without name calling and without it getting personal. Interesting point you make about Kershaw adopting that delivery from Haren. Hadn’t known that before and it’s certainly something to ponder.