If there’s one thing the MLB stoppage has provided fans with so far this winter, it’s the freedom to let their minds run wild with imagination. With the absence of any legitimate rumors of trades or signings, hypothetical acquisitions have been running wild in the baseball blogosphere. If the CBA resolution arrives later than sooner, fans could witness a mad frenzy of signings like no other before.
For fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers, lots of questions linger. Above all else is how much money the club will spend on payroll. Following in a close second is the future of righty starter Trevor Bauer and where he fits with the team. Whatever the case may be, all parties are hopeful the season starts on time without any major implications on the schedule.
With the transaction freeze in place, there hasn’t been a whole lot to talk about as far as roster-building goes. We’ve beaten to death everything surrounding the state of the Los Angeles rotation, specifically if Bauer doesn’t pitch and Clayton Kershaw ends up throwing for another team, if he’s indeed able to pitch.
One thing we haven’t touched on much is whether the Dodgers plan on sticking to a traditional rotation or utilizing more “openers.”
In 2021, the Dodgers used a franchise-record 39 pitchers, including limited services of arms like Kevin Quackenbush, James Sherfy, Yefry Ramirez, Jake Reed and more. Part of the reason was the insane number of injuries — and the COVID-19 protocols — coupled with the fact that the team only played 60 games in 2020, so to say that player stamina and conditioning were lacking would be an understatement.
The Dodgers used 19 different pitchers in either a starting or opening role last year, led by Walker Buehler with 33 bona fide starts and David Price with 11 “opening” appearances. Personally, I feel the Dodgers aren’t leaning one way or the other — if they have the quality starters to run out every five days, they obviously don’t need to employ an opener. In other words, they probably don’t plan on using openers unless the roster requirements dictate it.
Last year, each player who was part of the 40-man roster had at least several opportunities to showcase their skills, leading many to believe that the Los Angeles farm might not be as talented as once perceived. Front office boss Andrew Friedman became a master at manipulating the team roster, throwing players to the sharks that some fans would have never believed — see Justin Bruihl, Darien Nunez, Mike Kickham and more.
No doubt, the same could be in store for next season. 25-year-old righty Michael Grove was recently added to the 40-man mix last month, meaning there’s a better-than-average chance he’ll make his big-league debut in 2022.
A few other young players to keep an eye on next year as potential 40-man starting pitching additions are Ryan Pepiot, Landon Knack and Clayton Beeter. Fans will also closely monitor the continued emergence of Andre Jackson and Mitch White to gauge if they’re actually big-league material.
Many of the hottest topics on the rumor front surrounding position players like Freddie Freeman and Carlos Correa have overshadowed much of the starting pitching speculation. Max Scherzer landing in New York received most of the attention, and whatever happens with Kershaw will certainly dominate the headlines whenever those decisions roll around.
While most of the big-name starting pitchers came off the table before the CBA expired, there could be a few diamonds in the rough remaining. Or, we could see the Dodgers make a few trades if all else fails. If not, we may be in store for quite a few more “openers” in 2022.