The new year is rapidly approaching, and do you know where your 2016 Dodgers rotation is?
As it stands in the twilight of 2015, it has two gaping holes. Potential answers have been falling off the free-agent board like needles on a drying Christmas tree, including the biggest -- their own Zack Greinke.
The half-full types plead patience and argue the off-season is hardly over; half-empties see a dwindling pool of possibilities. What's a team to do? Or at least, what's a team to do once the six highest ranked free-agent pitchers -- Greinke, David Price, Jordan Zimmermann, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and Mike Leake -- have all signed elsewhere?
The Dodgers may yet pull off a trade for a starter, but they would still need at least one more. Every off-season the mantra is the same – teams always need more than five starting pitchers. Injuries are inevitable. The Dodgers used five different spot starters last season in their first 32 games.
That's because two from their original rotation quickly went down for the season, Hyun-Jin Ryu (shoulder) and Brandon McCarthy (elbow). Now both may be back next season, which would be great, of course, but the Dodgers cannot afford to count on either. And if they do return, they cannot count on them pitching at their former levels.
So what's left of the free-agent options?
The most common names bandied about for the Dodgers right now are Kenta Maeda and Wei-Yin Chen. And if there is a choice to be made between the two, it will have to be reached soon.
The Hiroshima Carp club has posted Maeda, so it will take a $20-million posting fee and another projected $60 million to $80 million to sign him. And since Scott Boras is reportedly seeking $100 million for Chen, both pitchers could cost approximately the same to sign.
What to do?
There are several reasons to go for Maeda: he's right-handed, he's over two years younger and he will not cost them a draft pick.
Right now the Dodgers rotation is Clayton Kershaw, Brett Anderson, Alex Wood, and possibly, Ryu. All are left-handed. There's no law against an all left-handed rotation, but it's not exactly desirable.
Chen was given a qualifying offer by the Orioles, so he would cost the Dodgers a first-round pick to sign. And the Dodgers are supposed to be intent on garnering picks to continue to build the farm system, not lose them to sign a 30-year-old pitcher.
Chen, however, is more a known entity. The Taiwanese pitcher has started the last four seasons for the Orioles, and in the last two seasons went a combined 27-14 with a 3.44 ERA and 1.22 WHIP.
If there is more uncertainty with Maeda, his credentials are only promising. He just won his second Sawamura Award, Japan's equivalent to the Cy Young, after going 15-8 and putting up a 2.09 ERA and 1.01 WHIP.
He's not considered a Masahiro Tanaka-type ace, but a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter, something the Dodgers could very much use. Maeda has been in the United States for the last two weeks to meet with clubs and the Japanese media reported he met with the Dodgers on Thursday. His posting period expires Jan. 8, so a decision looms.
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