The Dodgers could afford Max Scherzer or James Shields. No one is claiming otherwise.
They will pay $88 million in salary next season to six starting pitchers — one of whom, Dan Haren, will pitch for another team. They will pay $30 million to Clayton Kershaw and $23 million to Zack Greinke, and signing Scherzer or Shields as a free agent could have given them three aces in a similar price range.
Instead, the Dodgers filled their rotation vacancies by splitting the money between Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson, who will receive a combined $21 million next season.
"I don't think our intention ever was to sign one guy and punt on the fifth spot," General Manager Farhan Zaidi said Wednesday. He said any additional starters imported would be "depth options," which would rule out Scherzer or Shields.
Shields has started 30 games in each of the last eight seasons, Scherzer in each of the last six.
McCarthy has played nine years and started 30 games once. Anderson has played six years and started 30 games once. In the last three years, Anderson has started 20 games.
On a conference call to formally announce the signing of the talented but oft-injured Anderson, Zaidi acknowledged the pitcher's track record meant the Dodgers were taking "some risk," but said the team was convinced the last three years represented "a run of bad luck," including "a freak thumb issue and a very minor back issue" last year.
Zaidi declined to say how many starts or innings would be considered good for Anderson, but said the Dodgers expected no less from him than from their other starters.
"From a health standpoint, we feel very good about it," Zaidi said.
The Dodgers used 12 starters last season, even with the top five each making at least 20 starts. Zaidi indicated the Dodgers were comfortable with Mike Bolsinger, Juan Nicasio and Joe Wieland, all recently acquired, as starting pitching depth.
To clear a roster spot for Anderson, the Dodgers designated shortstop Erisbel Arruebarrena for assignment. Arruebarrena, signed for $25 million in February by the international scouting unit established by Dodgers President Stan Kasten and Vice President Bob Engle, batted .195 with a .464 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 41 at-bats.
Zaidi said the Dodgers already had talked to "three to five" teams about trading Arruebarrena. It is unclear how much of his remaining $16 million the team would have to pay to facilitate a deal. The Dodgers also could keep Arruebarrena and send him to the minor leagues.
Under the new management of Zaidi and Andrew Friedman, the president of baseball operations, the Dodgers have agreed to pay $55 million to get Haren, Matt Kemp, Brian Wilson and Dee Gordon off their roster.