For some fans of the Dodgers, the offseason so far has been a bit of a disappointment as far as upgrading the roster goes. For others, they have faith in the existing personnel, as they are counting down the days until the same core from the 2019 group has another chance to prove its identity in 2020.
I’ve been talking a lot about the offseason expectations lately, specifically how the hopes of a huge upgrade were relatively minimal right around when the Dodgers were eliminated from the 2019 postseason, but soared to great heights after front-office boss Andrew Friedman indicated his team was likely to make a big splash during the winter months.
“I think it’s always safe to assume if there is a star-type, top-of-the-roster type player available, we’re going to pursue it,” Friedman said during a radio interview at the end of November.
In the weeks following that particular interview, Los Angeles was reportedly “in” on numerous free agents like Stephen Strasburg, Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, Madison Bumgarner and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Furthermore, trade rumors were swirling, linking the team to several superstars—primarily Francisco Lindor of the Indians and Mookie Betts of the Red Sox.
However, now that all the aforementioned free agents have signed elsewhere and the talks surrounding Lindor and Betts have seemingly reached impasses, time is running out for the organization to make that “big move.”
It almost seems that the team intends to begin the season with its current group of players despite having an extra $20 million or so to play with while staying under the Luxury Tax Threshold—if that’s what a team with one of the largest markets in baseball really needs to do.
For certain fans, the team having not landed a big name during the winter’s free agent scramble seems like a youngster not getting what they wanted for Christmas after being promised a really huge gift for behaving themselves all year.
There’s no question the team will make a few moves during the weeks leading up to spring training, but those moves may not be substantial, lacking the glamour of a front-line starter or a 40-homer-per-year slugger. They’ll probably be moves to bolster the fringes of the farm and strengthen the overall depth of the roster—something that fans probably don’t want to hear.
I’m one of those folks who’s still somewhere in between. I don’t think a move should be made for the sake of making a move, especially since the most impactful players have already been snagged from the free agent big board. There’s always the summer trade deadline to upgrade the squad. Having a spare $20 million at the deadline could end up proving to be beneficial.
I am, however, concerned about the overall landscape of the team’s starting rotation in the first half of the year—probably even more than the prospective bullpen. On multiple occasions, we’ve talked significantly about how the Los Angeles rotation might look if there weren’t any additions made to the current active roster. Right now, the front five would consist of Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Kenta Maeda, Julio Urias and one of either Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin or Ross Stripling.
Certainly, there’s plenty of potential among those names, but it’s tough to speculate just how well the unit would perform as a whole. Kershaw is aging, Urias may need time to settle back into a starting role, and Maeda typically begins to drift away during the second half of the season. Moreover, it’s difficult to project just how many quality innings May or Gonsolin could contribute.
Last year, 10 different pitchers started games for the Dodgers, and that doesn’t include Casey Sadler‘s role as an “opener” on September 18 against the Rays. In 2018, the Dodgers used 11 different starting pitchers. In 2017, they used 10.
After the seven aforementioned possibilities, there’s not too much left on the Los Angeles fringe unless one of Mitchell White or Dennis Santana emerges from the shadows. Of course, there’s always the chance of an ascension by an under-the-radar youngster like Josiah Gray.
Still, with the team having only about eight starters that are considered MLB-ready by most standards, there could be one or two starting pitchers arriving soon.
They just might not be the superstar-caliber arms like many fans have been hoping.