With a deep pool of resources and a need for starting pitching heading into the offseason, the Los Angeles Dodgers were predicted by many to be among the top players for the elite free-agent starting pitchers.
However, as the offseason has unfolded, the Dodgers have refrained from spending in excess of $100 million on a starter and have instead opted for signing Brett Anderson to a one-year deal and Brandon McCarthy (four years, $48 million). Along the way, the Dodgers also traded for Mike Bolsinger and Juan Nicasios — two moves that added depth to the organization.
Although Jon Lester signing with the Chicago Cubs was expected to open the gates for Max Scherzer and James Shields, both remain free agents on what’s been a relatively quiet market for the pair of right-handers. The Dodgers’ interest in either isn’t believed to be strong; a sentiment that was furthered by general manager Farhan Zaidi’s comments that the team doesn’t intend on adding more starting pitching.
However, until both pitchers sign contracts elsewhere, the Dodgers will likely continue to be mentioned as potential destinations; evident by CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman ranking the Dodgers as the fourth most-likely option for Scherzer.
ESPN’s Buster Olney evaluated the chances of all 30 MLB teams signing Scherzer and suggested the Dodgers aren’t a major player:
The biggest stack of chips in the industry sits in front of the Dodgers and new executive Andrew Friedman, which means they can go after any player they want at any time. But one of Friedman’s most oft-used words in his days as the general manager of the Rays was “inefficient,” as in, “That was an inefficient use of our resources.” Friedman might have more money to spend now with the Dodgers, but nobody sane can argue that, based on the ugly history of long-term deals doled out to pitchers in the middle of their careers, those types of contracts are anything but inefficient. And the underrated part of what the Dodgers have done since Friedman took over is to better manage the franchise’s payroll, including getting the Padres to assume $75 million of the money owed to Matt Kemp, building roster depth on the cheap and moving away from big spending on relievers.
The Dodgers already have a $216 million obligation to Kershaw. If they had actually signed Lester — to date, there is no hard evidence that their push for him was anything more than a negotiation feint to nudge the Giants into spending more — or if they sign Scherzer, they might have a hedge against the possibility that Zack Greinke will opt out of his deal next winter. But at a time when the starting pitching market is flush, spending huge dollars on Scherzer would be inefficient.
Although signing Scherzer would come at a significant cost for the Dodgers, an argument for adding the right-hander to their rotation can certainly be made. At 30 years old, Scherzer is one year younger than Zack Greinke, who can opt out of his contract following the 2015 season.
Assuming the Dodgers don’t sign Scherzer or Shields this offseason and Greinke opts out, there won’t be a shortage of free agent options one year from now if they deem 2015 as a more apt time to spend big on another arm.