Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and I’m hoping to be on Santa’s good list, because I asked him to fix the Dodgers’ TV situation before the season begins.
It all falls down
Remember the signing of pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma I told you about in the last newsletter? Never mind. Iwakuma returned to the Seattle Mariners on Thursday after the Dodgers retracted their three-year offer after a physical examination that apparently caused concerns about his elbow and shoulder. So the Dodgers are having quite the off-season, trading for Aroldis Chapman and then holding off on it after an MLB investigation into Chapman for an alleged domestic violence incident, and now losing Iwakuma after almost signing him. They are doing this all wrong. You are supposed to return things after Christmas.
So, at the end of the season, the Dodgers rotation was this: Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Brett Anderson, Alex Wood and either Mike Bolsinger or Carlos Frias.
Now, the rotation is: Kershaw, Anderson, Wood, hopefully Hyun-jin Ryu and pray for rain (which isn’t as lyrical as “Spahn and Sain and pray for rain”).
Do you notice anything unusual about that rotation? They are all left-handers. There are only three rotations in baseball history to have four left-handed starters make at least 20 starts. The others were the 2015 Chicago White Sox, with Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, John Danks and Carlos Rodon; the 2013 Chicago White Sox, with Sale, Quintana, Danks and Hector Santiago; and the 1954 Washington Senators with Mickey McDermott, Johnny Schmitz, Chuck Stobbs and Dean Stone. The 2015 White Sox finished 76-86, the 2013 White Sox lost 99 games and the 1954 Senators went 66-88. Not a great precedent.
So what do the Dodgers do now? They have three options. They can go after another free-agent pitcher, with the best available probably being Mike Leake, Yovani Gallardo, Wei-yin Chen and Scott Kazmir, they can attempt to sign Japanese pitching star Kenta Maeda, who won the Japanese League equivalent of the Cy Young Award last season, or they can make a trade.
No matter how you slice the first two options, you are left with a rotation that is not nearly as good as the one last season. Leake, Gallardo, Kazmir, Chen and Maeda all are, at best, No. 3 starters. Maeda could be really good, but he has never thrown more than 216 innings in a season and averaged about seven days off between starts last season. There are questions as to how he would fare in a five-man rotation with fewer days off. The Dodgers did pay a refundable $20-million fee to be eligible to negotiate with Maeda, so there is some interest.
But what if they trade for a starter? Let’s look at the most recent deal and how that might lead to a bigger trade:
Bye-bye, Jose Peraza
I’ve gotten a lot of emails from readers since the season ended, and many of them were excited to see what Jose Peraza could do at second base, figuring he could bring some speed to the Dodgers lineup. Well, we will never know, because the Dodgers traded Peraza along with Scott Schebler and Brandon Dixon to the Cincinnati Reds, who sent All-Star third baseman Todd Frazier to the White Sox, who sent prospects Frankie Montas, Micah Johnson and Trayce Thompson. I’m beginning the think Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi can’t make a trade unless there is more than one other team involved.
The package of prospects the Dodgers received are supposed to be better than the prospects they traded. Montas, a right-handed pitcher who throws 100+ mph on the radar is the gem of the deal, but he does not appear to be major league-ready yet. On the surface, this seems to be a strange trade, sending away Peraza, who could have contributed next season, since now the Dodgers have Chase Utley and Kiké Hernandezto play second. But Utley is not very good anymore and Hernandez is more valuable as a super sub and spot starter, since he can play multiple positions.
But what if this is step one of a bigger trade? Right now, the Dodgers have four of the top pitching prospects in baseball with Montas, Julio Urias, Jose DeLeon and Jharel Cotton. They should be able to package one of them in a deal for a top starter, such asJose Fernandez of Miami, or, the guy I would trade for, Sonny Gray of Oakland. Gray is only 26 and reminds me of a young Greinke. In three seasons with Oakland, he is 33-20 with a 2.88 ERA, a 1.134 WHIP and an ERA+ of 134.
Why not Fernandez? He is coming off Tommy John surgery and will be limited to 150 innings next season. But really, getting him instead of Gray would be fine. Either one would easily slot into the No. 2 spot behind Kershaw.
So, if you flip Montas and a couple of other players to Oakland for Gray, then by the end of next season you suddenly have a rotation of Kershaw, Gray, Anderson, Urias, Ryu. That’s a pretty good rotation, one Dodgers fans should be happy with.
Of course, that is all under the assumption that Friedman and Zaidi are planning to do something like that. They have not proven to be great at getting players in trades (I’m looking at you, Mat Latos) or picking who to trade away (I’m looking at you, Dee Gordon).
And none of that fixes what I still think is a mediocre offense. It doesn’t look like the Dodgers plan any real upgrades there, so for the Dodgers to contend next season, they will need Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson and Yasmani Grandal to bounce back from a poor second half and for Corey Seager to be the real deal.
The Dodgers named their coaching staff on Thursday. You can see the list here, but the coach I am most intrigued by is George Lombard. He spent the last three seasons as the base-running coordinator for the Boston Red Sox, and favors a smart but aggressive style on the bases, something the Dodgers have sorely been lacking the last couple of seasons.
Unless there is a major deal between now and then, this will be the last Dodgers Dugout until the new year. Merry Christmas to all of you out there, and thanks for coming along for the ride this year. Maybe next Christmas we can reminisce about the Dodgers’ 2016 World Series title and the fact we got to watch it all on TV after a settlement was made just before the season started.