With injuries to starters Michael Wacha (could be cleared to throw in two weeks) and Jaime Garcia (out for the season), the Cardinals' staff is depleted. The Dodgers, on the other hand, have an elite starting rotation. But, as Heyman noted, they are concerned about Josh Beckett and Dan Haren's ability to stay healthy and productive as the playoffs inch nearer.
Adding Lester would relegate those concerns irrelevant.
The Dodgers' four postseason starters would be Clayton Kershaw, and then Zack Greinke, Lester and Hyun-jin Ryu in some order. Ryu currently has the worst xFIP of the quartet at 3.19. That's good for 20th among qualified starters.
In other words, the Dodgers would have four of the 20 best starters in baseball, based on an advanced statistic that evaluates pitchers based solely on their performance and not the fielders behind them.
Fangraphs' Dave Cameron argued on Monday that the Dodgers should not trade for Lester or David Price. He wrote that the Dodgers would essentially be replacing Beckett with either, and based on projections, Los Angeles would be more prudent to address another need at the deadline:
Lester currently projects as a 3.50 ERA pitcher in the AL East, so move him to the NL West, and you probably have something like a 3.25 ERA pitcher. Beckett projects as a 3.90 ERA guy, so clearly, it’s an upgrade. But of course, neither pitcher is going to be asked to throw nine innings a playoff game, so we’re really looking at their difference over roughly six innings. In Beckett’s case, he’s probably not even likely to be asked to get six in a playoff game, so it’s really more like six innings of Lester versus four innings of Beckett and two innings of the Dodgers bullpen. But, we’ll just keep it simple and stick with six innings of each starter.
Cameron calculated that the difference between Lester and Beckett under the stated circumstances would be just 0.43 runs. Lester wouldn't help the Dodgers save even half of a run.
But Cameron's argument fails to address Beckett's injury history.
Beckett has not pitched more than 170 innings in a season since 2011. A hip injury impeded his 2014 resurgence in early July, and he has not pitched well in the two starts since his return from the disabled list.
Of course, the Dodgers would have the most formidable one-two-three punch of starters in the playoffs, with or without a healthy, productive Beckett. But Lester would add another dominant arm with a history of postseason success.
Beckett is Los Angeles' only starter with World Series experience. He pitched 23.1 innings over two Fall Classics and allowed just three earned runs. But he's not the same pitcher in 2014 he was in 2003 and 2007.
Lester, on the other hand, is fresh off a dominant 2013 World Series performance. In 21 innings over two World Series, Lester allowed just one earned run.
He, unlike Beckett, is just as reliable now as he was then. In fact, Lester is having the best season of his career.
There are complications to adding Lester—a free-agent-to-be with no urgent inkling to sign an extension, as reported by Alex Speier of WEEI.com. But because he is a rental, he would be cheaper than Price or Cole Hamels.
The logistics aside, Lester is worth more than the 0.43 run difference calculated by Cameron because the Dodgers cannot rely on Beckett to stay healthy and productive—especially after his most recent pair of starts.
With Lester, the Dodgers would have the most dominant postseason rotation, which typically includes just four starters. They would be the favorites in any series because of their starting pitching.