Top 5 Options for the Dodgers to Replace Zack Greinke Post-Broken Collarbone
The Los Angeles Dodgers have the arduous task of replacing Zack Greinke after the right-hander suffered a broken collarbone in a bench-clearing brawl on Thursday night (via ESPN.com). Ted Lilly will presumably fill the rotation void initially, but there are other internal and external candidates to consider.
Free agents like Roy Oswalt and Carlos Zambrano could still contribute despite their forgettable 2012 campaigns. However, neither cracked this top-five list.
We seldom see blockbuster trades around this time of the season because, in most cases, MLB teams believe they still have opportunities to contend. Even the bottom-dwelling Chicago Cubs and Miami Marlins would hesitate to move starting pitching as they deal with their own injuries.
The Dodgers ought to speak to the lowly Houston Astros in the coming days. Otherwise, we'll probably see them scour their own farm system or stretch out a reliever.
Breaking Down the Injury
We knew from the get-go that Carlos Quentin had sent Zack Greinke to the disabled list.
The 240-pound outfielder—a former First Team All-County high school football player, not surprisingly—slammed into Greinke to cause the fracture. The Associated Press (via CBS News) reports that the pitcher's left (non-throwing) arm was in a sling later that evening.
But rarely do we see MLB players affected by fractured collarbones. At first, the Los Angeles Dodgers didn't know whether Greinke would return by Memorial Day or the All-Star break.
Thankfully, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports has tweeted a timetable:
#Dodgers: Greinke will undergo surgery tomorrow to place a rod in his clavicle to stabilize and align the fracture. Expected out 8 weeks.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) April 12, 2013
5. Matt Magill (Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes)
Matt Magill is the only realistic option who could step in and replicate Zack Greinke's strikeout rate.
Then again, the 23-year-old occasionally struggles to locate his pitches. He has already issued seven walks through his first nine innings at the Triple-A level.
Magill struck out eight batters during his three Cactus League appearances before the Los Angeles Dodgers optioned him to the minors on March 11.
He's likely to see his regular-season MLB debut in September.
4. Chris Capuano (Los Angeles Dodgers)
All last summer, Chris Capuano pitched out of the Los Angeles Dodgers rotation.
He got off to a fiery start. Through the end of May, the southpaw had a 7-1 record, 2.14 ERA and 1.00 WHIP.
Unfortunately, he faced tougher opponents down the stretch. They combined for 20 home runs against Capuano during the remaining months. Overall, though, he was a dependable back-end starter.
Offseason signings of Zack Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu buried this veteran on the 2013 depth chart. Los Angeles traded Aaron Harang recently to lessen the surplus, but Chad Billingsley leapfrogged Capuano into the vacated spot.
Thus far, the 34-year-old is performing well in relief. Manager Don Mattingly probably doesn't want to mess with a good thing.
3. Stephen Fife (Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes)
Stephen Fife, 26, is a teammate of Matt Magill's in the Pacific Coast League. However, his summer has been more successful through two outings, plus he has more major league experience.
The Los Angeles Dodgers used Fife for a handful of starts in 2012. The team's 1-4 record behind him has everything to do with the streaky offense. The right-hander actually kept the score close each time on the mound by limiting opponents to two runs or less.
Moreover, his excellence this past preseason caught Don Mattingly's attention, according to MLB.com's Ken Gurnick:
This guy has come so far last Spring to this Spring. Huge strides. And his stuff has taken a jump.
He gives credit to the development staff. He does his thing a little differently and they let him be. Last time he hit 96, 95 [mph]. We're seeing velocity we didn't see before.
In four games (two starts), he recorded 12 strikeouts versus only two walks.
2. Ted Lilly (Los Angeles Dodgers)
Like Chris Capuano, Ted Lilly was in a groove for the first several weeks of 2012. He stayed undefeated through seven starts and annihilated batters (.170 BAA), so it's no wonder the Los Angeles Dodgers soared into first place.
But after getting lit up by the Arizona Diamondbacks on May 23, the lefty felt shoulder pain. A setback derailed his comeback attempt, and he opted for season-ending surgery.
Lilly would have rejoined his teammates earlier had he built up more arm strength in spring training. Due to a rain-shortened outing and brief bout of the flu, he has instead made appearances for L.A.'s minor league affiliates.
Ken Gurnick reports that a 90-pitch outing on Wednesday night went smoothly.
At age 37, Lilly would be the oldest Dodgers player on the active roster. He relies on finesse at this stage of his career.
1. Bud Norris (Houston Astros)
Acquiring Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and others via trade drained the Los Angeles Dodgers' farm system of its depth.
Would general manager Ned Colletti be willing to move a few more prospects to solidify the rotation?
Probably not at this early stage of the campaign.
If and when that changes, however, Bud Norris should be on his mind. The 28-year-old is about to make his 100th MLB start. He doesn't reach free agency until after the 2015 season.
As of March, Houston Astros GM Jeff Luhnow was holding out for an overwhelming offer, writes Brian McTaggart of MLB.com. Of course, his rebuilding franchise feels tempted to dump Norris' team-high $3 million salary.
Pursuing the right-hander is pretty implausible unless Zack Greinke's condition worsens.