Ranking the 5 Best Pitching Options for the Dodgers to Overhaul 2013 Rotation
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The Los Angeles Dodgers starting rotation could be in rough shape going into next season.
Clayton Kershaw faces the possibility of undergoing surgery to repair an impingement in his right hip. Such a procedure is expected to keep him out until the middle of next May.
Other Dodgers pitchers could go under the knife as well. Chad Billingsley may also require surgery on his injured right elbow. If he needs Tommy John surgery, he will miss all of next season. Ted Lilly is expected to be ready for spring training after having arthroscopic surgery performed on his left shoulder. But at 36 years old, recovery might take longer for him than projected.
As Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal writes, the Dodgers need starting pitching next season and will likely make it an offseason priority. There are several arms the team could pursue in free agency, but one name stands out above all the others. Other quality starting pitchers will also be available on the trade market.
Here are five pitchers the Dodgers could chase during the offseason, ranked in order of talent and likelihood of acquisition.
5. John Lackey
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Could the Dodgers and Boston Red Sox match up on yet another big trade?
This might be a bit of a long shot. But John Lackey's Red Sox career has not gone well, with a 26-23 record and 5.26 ERA in two seasons.
However, Lackey very likely pitched through those two years with an injured elbow that required Tommy John surgery after the 2011 season. Now that his elbow has been repaired, Lackey might be closer to the pitcher that the Red Sox signed to a five-year, $82.5 million contract in 2010.
Additionally, as the Boston Herald's John Tomase notes, the Red Sox need Lackey in their starting rotation next year. He could be the No. 3 pitcher behind Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, giving Boston a strong trio at the top of its starting staff.
But Lackey also still has the stain of 2011's fried-chicken-and-beer antics on him, and the Red Sox might want to clear him out of their clubhouse. General manager Ben Cherington might also want to shed the remaining $30.5 million on the final two years of his contract and allocate those resources on other pitchers.
The Dodgers offer a change of scenery—and leagues—that could be what Lackey needs.
4. Anibal Sanchez
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The Dodgers will chase bigger free-agent game this winter, but they may also want to pursue some of the second-tier starters that will also be available.
Anibal Sanchez hasn't performed up to expectations in his nine starts for the Detroit Tigers this season. The Tigers were hoping for better than a 3-5 record and 4.19 ERA, hoping that Sanchez could be a solid third or fourth starter to go with Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer.
Going back to the National League, where he had success with the Florida Marlins, could be the best move for Sanchez. Working in a more pitcher-friendly home ballpark like Dodger Stadium would be beneficial as well.
The Dodgers will pursue a pitcher that can be a No. 1 starter if Clayton Kershaw has hip surgery and misses the first two months of the season. But they will also need someone to fill out the back end of their rotation.
Sanchez probably won't command a big contract on the open market after his performance with the Tigers, and the Dodgers could sign him for a lower-value contract, perhaps a three-year deal worth $7 million per season.
3. James Shields
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James Shields has a $9 million option for next season and a $12 million option for 2014 remaining on his contract.
The Tampa Bay Rays would prefer not to pay Shields that money and to have the starting-pitching depth to cover his absence from their rotation next year.
The Rays looked into dealing Shields away before the July 31 trade deadline with teams like the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Arizona Diamondbacks and St. Louis Cardinals showing interest. Ultimately, Tampa Bay decided it couldn't trade Shields while still contending in the AL East and wild-card playoff races. But that would change during the offseason.
Though the Rays don't want to pay Shields, two years and $21 million would be an absolute bargain for a starter who can exceed 200 innings, strike out more than eight batters a game and win 15 games per season.
That was against AL East competition, by the way. What might Shields be capable of pitching in the National League?
2. Ryan Dempster
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We already know Ryan Dempster wanted to pitch for the Dodgers this year.
He vetoed a trade to the Atlanta Braves—invoking his "10-and-five" rights (10 years in the majors, five with the same team)—in an attempt to force the Chicago Cubs to work out a deal with the Dodgers that would put him closer to his Vancouver roots and reunite him with former teammate Ted Lilly.
The Dodgers couldn't work out a deal before the July 31 trade deadline, mostly because general manager Ned Colletti didn't want to part with top prospects for a pitcher who would be a free agent at the end of the season. (Colletti surely also felt he had leverage over the Cubs since Dempster's preferred destination was the Dodgers.)
Obviously, there would be no such obstacles with Dempster being a free agent. All it would take to get him is money, and the Dodgers have plenty of that to spend now.
Going back to the NL—where he has had the majority of his career success—and pitching in Dodger Stadium instead of a launching pad like Rangers Ballpark in Arlington would be the ideal situation for Dempster in what will surely be the last contract of his major league career.
1. Zack Greinke
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There's Zack Greinke and then everyone else when it comes to starting pitchers on the free-agent market.
If the Dodgers want an ace-caliber starter, a No. 1 arm to fill in during Clayton Kershaw's absence or a strong No. 2 to pitch behind him, Greinke will be the best pitcher available.
Perhaps there's some concern, as Rosenthal mentions in his article, that Greinke and his issues with social anxiety disorder couldn't handle the pressures of pitching in the Los Angeles (as opposed to Anaheim) market.
But even if Greinke faces greater scrutiny from Los Angeles media, would it be the same as the meat grinder he would deal with in New York, Boston or Chicago? (Greinke can always just choose not to talk to the Los Angeles Times' T.J. Simers. He wouldn't be the first athlete to do so.)
Greinke also wouldn't have to carry the Dodgers starting rotation as he did in Kansas City. As with the Milwaukee Brewers and the Angels, he would be part of a strong top three. If he had to be the No. 1 guy, it would only be while Kershaw was sidelined.
Only one or two teams will likely be willing to offer the money Greinke will be looking for in free agency (presumably the six-year, $127.5 million deal Matt Cain received in April). Money doesn't appear to be an issue for the Dodgers under the Guggenheim Baseball Management ownership group.
The Dodgers also have the opening at the top of their rotation for Greinke to fill. This would be the best fit for him.
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