For as many fans of the Dodgers who think the team will make some sort of high-impact move in the six weeks remaining before pitchers and catchers file into spring camp, there’s probably an equal amount who think the roster will stay relatively the same.
Aside from adding righty releiver Blake Treinen to the bullpen mix about a month ago, management has been very quiet with any alterations to the roster, unless you consider the signing of journeyman catcher Rocky Gale significant.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve been discussing why it’s not paramount for the Dodgers to make any glaring changes to the roster right now, despite there being a handful of clubs lurking about—specifically in the American League—that are conceivably built much better for a World Championship.
Regardless, there should be more than enough firepower in the tank to control the National League West in the first half of the season, then upgrade where needed at the summer trade deadline. Besides, as of right now, the free agent market is mostly depleted, while some of the most attractive players regarding potential trades are members of teams that think they’ll contend in 2020. Once some of those teams fall out of contention after the 2020 All-Star break, the trade market should become much more appealing.
Another thing we’ve talked about to some length is the team’s depth as far as starting pitching goes. 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. However, there’s not a whole lot of depth beyond those seven pitchers. In our analysis, we stated that the Dodgers used 11 different starting pitchers both last season and in 2018. Unless the team is prepared to use guys like Mitchell White or Dennis Santana for some big league service time, management might need to make an addition or two as far as experienced arms go.
One of the short-term fixes that came to my mind was the possible addition of free agent lefty Alex Wood. The former Dodger is still sitting towards the bottom of the free agent board in terms of demand. As our friend Connor Byrne at MLBTR stated recently, there haven’t even been any whispers of the Charlotte native garnering interest from anyone at all.
Originally, back in 2015, Wood came to Los Angeles in a cluster of a trade that involved players like Jim Johnson, Jose Peraza, Bronson Arroyo, Luis Avilan, Hector Olivera and Paco Rodriguez, among several others. Last winter, the Dodgers traded Wood, Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig and Kyle Farmer to the Reds for Homer Bailey, Jeter Downs, and Josiah Gray.
Sandwiched in between those deals were quite a few injuries. Still, while wearing Dodger Blue in 2017, Wood had one of the best years of his career, earning a selection the the NL All-Star squad while putting up a 16-3 record with a 2.72 ERA alongside 151 punchouts over 25 starts.
The Reds thought that they had a potential gem in the receiving end of the deal, but Wood landed on the injured list with a back injury just before Opening Day last year. He recovered in time to make seven starts in August, but the injury to his back returned, keeping him on the shelf for the remainder of the season.
Last season—which was the final year of his contract—Wood earned $9.65 million, but there’s no conceivable way he earns anywhere near that number in 2020 unless he signs a deal laden with incentives. Perhaps the biggest dilemma with Wood latching on somewhere is that he has no player options remaining, which complicates things regarding roster flexibility. Theoretically, he could be had on a minors deal, although the amount of money would be significantly less than his target amount.
The Dodgers have had some success with reclamation projects in the past. Specifically, Daniel Hudson and Brandon Morrow come to mind. Hudson had no options remaining in 2018 and his contract needed to be purchased from Triple-A Oklahoma City before he threw in the bigs. Veteran right-handers Justin Masterson and Jair Jurrjens were on similar paths back in 2017, although neither ended up throwing at the major league level. Jurrjens was eventually suspended mid-season following a positive test for steroids.
In any event, if there’s a way to work a deal, I think that Wood could be useful to the Dodgers, so long as he can stay healthy. Even if his future team would need help in the relief department, Wood’s career numbers as a reliever are far better than those as a starter. Over 43 lifetime relief appearances, he has tallied a 2.70 ERA with 54 strikeouts over an even 50 innings pitched.
Of course, there’s always the chance of a future injury. Some pundits have been saying for years that Wood’s herky-jerky delivery could potentially be a recipe for disaster.
Steamer apparently thinks Wood will land somewhere. According to the 2020 projections on Fangraphs, he will tally an 8-8 record with a 4.47 ERA and a 1.6 WAR over 24 starts and 136 innings pitched.
Even if Wood doesn’t end up in Los Angeles—which is very remote, at best—it will still be interesting to see how the next few years of his career unfold, particularly if he can avoid the injury list.