The Dodgers signed Scott Kazmir to a three-year, $48-million contract Wednesday, filling the hole in their starting rotation created by the departure of Zack Greinke.
Kazmir can opt out of his contract after next season. The free-agent class of pitchers is particularly thin next off-season, with Stephen Strasburg, Andrew Cashner and the Dodgers' Brett Anderson projected as the top available starters.
The Dodgers could open the season with a rotation composed entirely of left-handers: Clayton Kershaw, Anderson, Kazmir, Alex Wood, and Hyun-Jin Ryu. That possibility amused several Dodgers players. Anderson told Kershaw via Twitter: "The entire rotation is going to use your glove as a sign of solidarity." First baseman Adrian Gonzalez added: "All right-handed lineups, will I get a ground ball all year?"
But that angle is likely to be overblown, since no major league team used fewer than eight starting pitchers last season. The Dodgers used 16, the most in the majors, according to Baseball Reference.
General Manager Farhan Zaidi acknowledged as much, saying the team would not rule out adding another veteran starting pitcher. Zaidi would not say whether the team had made a contract offer to Japanese right-hander Kenta Maeda.
Anderson appeared to tire toward the end of last season, in which he threw more innings than he had in the previous three seasons combined. Ryu is coming off shoulder surgery and hopes to be ready in spring training. Right-hander Brandon McCarthy is coming off elbow surgery and hopes to be ready in the second half of the season.
"There are some guys coming back from injury," Zaidi said. "To the extent that adding more certainty to the rotation is an option for us over the next couple of months, we'll definitely continue to look."
The Dodgers believe that as many as four prospects — Julio Urias, Jose DeLeon, Jharel Cotton and Frankie Montas — could be ready to start in the major leagues by the end of next season.
Zaidi said the Dodgers were comfortable letting Kazmir walk away after one season because of that organizational depth, the possibility of getting an extra draft pick for Kazmir next off-season and the motivation that another shot at free agency might provide Kazmir next season.
"In Scott's case, he and his representation are aware that next year's free-agent starting pitching market will probably be a pretty good seller's market," Zaidi said. "From our standpoint, we have a lot of good young pitching that we feel is going to be ready to contribute at some point in 2016 and certainly by 2017."
The Dodgers opened the off-season hoping to retain Greinke, but were outbid by the Arizona Diamondbacks. They then agreed to a three-year, $45-million deal with Hisashi Iwakuma, but tried to restructure the deal amid concerns about the results of his physical examination. Iwakuma instead returned to the Seattle Mariners.
Kazmir, who turns 32 next month, was 7-11 with a 3.10 earned-run average for the Oakland Athletics and Houston Astros last season. He ranked fourth in the American League in ERA, behind David Price, Dallas Keuchel and Sonny Gray.
The Dodgers did not surrender a draft pick to sign Kazmir, as they would have had they signed Iwakuma. In two off-seasons under Zaidi and President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers have yet to sign a major league free agent for more than $48 million.
Zaidi said the Dodgers remain interested in acquiring relief help but indicated the team had no interest in bringing back second baseman Howie Kendrick. The Dodgers would get an extra draft pick if Kendrick signs with another team before the June draft.
"We feel pretty set at second base with Chase [Utley] and [Enrique Hernandez]," Zaidi said. "We are not really actively involved in the market for infielders at this point."
For the first time, the Dodgers publicly acknowledged they had a deal in place to acquire star reliever Aroldis Chapman from the Cincinnati Reds. Zaidi said the Dodgers backed off after Major League Baseball launched an investigation into previously unreported domestic violence allegations against Chapman and did not revisit those trade talks before the New York Yankees acquired Chapman on Tuesday. The league investigation is ongoing.
"As was reported, we did come to an agreement in principle on a deal," Zaidi said. "As the details that emerged came to light, we just weren't comfortable making the move."
The departures of Greinke and Kendrick, the collapse of the Chapman and Iwakuma deals and the flurry of pitching acquisitions elsewhere in the National League West — Greinke and Shelby Miller in Arizona; Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija in San Francisco — have triggered criticism of the Dodgers' front office.
Zaidi chuckled at the question of whether the Kazmir signing might get some of those fans off the ledge.
"I think our fans are ultimately going to respond and react to how the team plays once April rolls around and the games actually count in the standings," he said. "I think, as long as we build a good and competitive team, the fans will be happy."
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