Starting pitching depth was an issue for the Dodgers last season. That’s no longer a problem this year as the team enters Spring Training with eight starting pitchers on the roster, six of whom have been all-stars.
So with that many arms quality arms on deck, who will make the five-man rotation? What do the Dodgers do with the rest?
Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke are locked in at one and two.
Kershaw is the unquestioned ace of the staff and is arguably the best pitcher in baseball. The Dodgers just paid Greinke $147 million to be the co-ace of the staff, so those two are set.
Chad Billingsley was the team’s second-best starter last year, but his season was cut short due to a partially torn elbow ligament. The elbow is now feeling good, and if he’s healthy, there’s no reason to think he can’t regain the form that saw him go 6-0 over his final seven starts with a 1.80 ERA.
Billingsley’s rotation spot is secure.
Korean phenom Hyun-Jin Ryu was the Dodgers’ other major off-season acquisition. He is scheduled to make $36 million over the next six years. He has always been a starter in Korea. Certainly the Dodgers envision him as a starter, so there’s no reason to think he won’t open the season as the team’s fourth or fifth starter.
For the record, that’s a pretty dominant first four, definitely among the best in baseball.
So, who gets the last spot. Josh Beckett, Chris Capuano, Ted Lilly, or Aaron Harang? All are a solid choice, there really is no wrong answer here. The most likely candidate would seem to be Beckett.
Beckett pitched well for the Dodgers after coming over from Boston, posting a 2.93 ERA in seven starts.
He’s getting paid $15.75 million over the next two years, the most of the group.
Don Mattingly also told the L.A. Times’ Dylan Hernandez that he thought Beckett would have a tougher time adjusting to the bullpen. If Beckett pitches the way he did for the Dodgers at the end of 2012, I’m fine with that.
So, what about Lilly, Capuano, and Harang? Lilly is the oldest and makes the most money of the remaining three and is coming off shoulder surgery. He seems to be the least likely to be traded. Lilly also went on record to say he’d rather be a reliever for the Dodgers, than be a starter elsewhere. I guess that settles that.
Harang and Capuano both have similar contracts with mutual options for 2014. However, they had quite different seasons.
Capuano started the season on a tear going 9-3 with a 2.69 ERA over the first three months of the season, even being considered an all-star snub.
However, from July on, Capuano went only 3-9.
Harang had a terrible first month of the season, posting a 5.72 ERA in April. However, he was arguably the Dodgers second most consistent pitcher the entire rest of the season with a 3.21 ERA the rest of the way.
The Dodgers are stacked with power righties in the bullpen, so Capuano would be more effective in the bullpen than Harang, where the Dodgers have only two lefties out of the ‘pen on the roster.
However, Harang could be used in long relief and as a spot starter.
Capuano seems so much more attractive as trade bait. Capuano had an outstanding 3:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 2012, and is a great athlete who can run the bases, handle the bat, and field his position.
Harang, well, he’s the Harangatang, and most teams won’t be looking for a fly-ball pitcher with a lackluster 1.5:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
The Dodgers’ expectations are the highest they’ve been in years. A lot will depend upon the success of the pitching staff. However, it looks like the Dodgers have a lot of solid options to count on in 2013.