Following the Dodgers’ monumental deals this season, the batting lineup is set. While they had their struggles colluding as a unit, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Adrian Gonzalez, and Hanley Ramirez will make the Blue Crew a dangerous team to face this upcoming season.
The security that the Dodgers’ offense gives the team facing a 2013 season with high expectations is quickly retracted when looking at their starting rotation. To put it simply, the rotation will be shaken up this offseason.
Joe Blanton is almost certainly going to be left for free agency after a poor performance in Dodger Blue; promising young ace Nathan Eovaldi was traded this season; and serious arm injuries to Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly have left their returns to the rotation unknown.
While they hope to have both Billingsley and Lilly back sometime in the early stages of next season, the front office must prepare for the worst when assessing the team’s need and expect setbacks in the two starters’ injuries.
With that approach, the Dodgers’ rotation for the beginning of the 2013 season would be: 1) Clayton Kershaw 2) Josh Beckett 3) Chris Capuano 4) Aaron Harang 5) Stephen Fife
If that rotation performs as well in 2013 as it did this past season, then the Dodgers will be sittin’ pretty; however, that would be an overly optimistic outlook.
Kershaw will undoubtedly have a good season if he remains healthy, but the rest of the rotation is a mystery.
It’s uncertain which Josh Beckett the Dodgers will experience next season and if he’ll be able to keep even-keeled. The backend of the rotation did well last season, but it’s probable that 2013 will be a different season for them with the added pressure of high expectations.
With uncertainty rampant, the Dodgers need to take advantage of this offseason’s free agency and pursue another starter. Zack Greinke seems the most suitable target: a young pitcher with considerable experience and success under his belt.
However, Greinke will be a hot commodity on the free agency market and may be lured by an attractive offer from another franchise, which would leave the Dodgers empty-handed if he’s the only big-name free-agent they have their eyes on.
Enter Edwin Jackson. There are plenty of free-agent pitchers out there, including the Oakland A’s’ Brandon McCarthy, but the Dodgers need look no further than Jackson to fulfill the starter they’re looking fore.
His first attractive attribute beyond his pitching capabilities is his age, which is an important aspect when weeding out which pitcher to sign this off-season.
Jackson is 29 and will remain that age in the 2013 season, which means unlike a guy like Ryan Dempster, who will be 36 next season, the Dodgers can offer Jackson a multi-year deal and have the option to keep him in the organization for a while.
Secondly, he has proved that he has matured as a pitcher and can perform. Although he showed potential in his few seasons as a Dodger from 2003-05, he proved mediocre for the Tampa Bay Rays and his trade away from the Dodgers seemed to be completely justified.
However, Jackson had a breakout year at the age of 26 with the Tigers in ’09 and hasn’t looked back despite a sub-par beginning of the season with the Arizona Diamondbacks before being traded to the Chicago White Sox in 2010.
What Jackson also brings to the table that the Dodgers are looking for is intensity, which he brings not only with his live arm but also with his determined (but restrained) demeanor. Jackson didn’t put this side of him on display during his tenure with the Blue Crew his first time around, but he has greatly matured as a player.
However, one potential downfall with Jackson is that he may not bring the right energy to the clubhouse. Since his breakout year with the Tigers, Jackson has played on five different teams in the last four years, which may make the Dodgers’ front office pause in dishing him out a long-term contract.
This may be happenstance, as Jackson has stated that he would like to stay with the Nationals if possible, but it will certainly give the Dodgers something to think about before signing him.
Lastly, Jackson’s chances of signing with the Dodgers are more likely because it was his first team as a big-leaguer, and may want to either prove to them that he is a great pitcher now or simply come full-circle on a personal level by achieving greatness on his old stomping grounds.
We witnessed this phenomenon this season with Shane Victorino, who was more than delighted to play for the team who drafted him but for which he never played in the big-leagues.
The line that Jackson’s career may have taken a funky path through the U.S. with stops from L.A. back to Arizona and back to Washington on the east coast, but if he’s able to manage a contract with the Dodgers this offseason, he and the opposing team’s scoreboard numbers will somehow form a perfect circle.