So, what now?
That’s the question many Dodgers fans find themselves asking after the starling news that Zack Greinke wouldn’t be returning to the team next year, and had signed with the rival Arizona Diamondbacks for a whopping 6yr/$206mil contract.
While the decision may have hit some fans harder than a Holly Holm roundhouse kick to the head, the Dodgers won’t have much time to dwell on the move. They will now be forced to move on and look ahead at other options. Whether it be acquiring one (or more) of the remaining free agent starting pitchers, possibly trading for one, or even looking to one of their young farm system arms, several options are still on the table for the front office.
The question begs asking: How might the Dodgers move forward?
Replacing the league leader in ERA and the 1B to Clayton Kershaw’s 1A in the starting rotation won’t be an easy task. In fact, given who’s still available on the free agent market, it’s probably safe to say it’s not a feasible task at all. Currently, the “biggest chip” still out there is Johnny Cueto, who is coming off a World Series winning season after being acquired by the Royals mid-season.
After coming to Kansas City, Cueto struggled to find consistency, and ended the year with an 11-13 record, 3.44 ERA, 212 IP, & 176 K’s. While those 2015 numbers hardly cry out “ace” material, Cueto had been pretty good before that, posting an ERA lower than 3.0 in each of the four previous years from 2011-2014. His fantastic 2014 season ended in a 2nd place NL Cy Young finish, getting beat out only by some guy named Kershaw.
Although a solid MLB starter, I’m sure many would agree that Cueto is no Zack Greinke. Still, at 29 years old (three years younger than Greinke) he’ll certainly be looking for a sizable contract. He already reportedly turned down a 6yr/$120MM offer, and according to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, Cueto could be seeking a 5-6 year deal, somewhere in the neighborhood of $140-$160 million total. That’s a hefty price tag for a pitcher coming off his worst season in five years, who also had some elbow soreness.
After Cueto, the free agent market gets a lot less appealing. Not even 24 hours after Greinke signed with Arizona, the Giants struck a deal with Jeff Samardzija. That leaves pitchers like Mike Leake, Hisashi Iwakuma, Scott Kazmir, Yovani Gallardo, & Ian Kennedy still on the table.
Not exactly anyone that Dodgers fans would jump for joy over.
Perhaps the Dodgers will not go the route of free agency, and instead, look to work a trade for a starter.
They’ve already reportedly checked in on Atlanta’s Shelby Miller. Other possible trade candidates could be Padres starters James Shields and Tyson Ross. If you really like to dream big, options like Chris Sale or Sonny Gray would undoubtedly intrigue any team, although the asking price would be astronomical for both. However, the Dodgers do have the pieces to possibly make something like that work. They have one of the deepest farm systems in the league, which continues to grow with their recent international signings. If their willingness to part with Yasiel Puig grows, perhaps a package that includes him and some core prospects not named Urias or Seager could get the big return they’re looking for.
There is also a 3rd option, although it’s one that may not be ideal quite yet. As mentioned, the Dodgers farm system is ripe with prospects. Julio Urias is one of the top ranked prospects in all of baseball, but the consensus within most of the organization is that the 19 year old is still at least a year away from contributing at the major league level. Other kids, however, may be closer to getting the call. Jose De Leon had a breakout year in 2015, posting a 12.8K/per 9 inn rate in the minors. Other prospects like Zach Lee and Ross Stripling seemed to have run their course in the minor league system, and if they’re ever going to make the jump to the pros, their shot should come sooner rather than later.
Moves will be made, no doubt. Greinke’s departure has made that an absolute requirement now. So, as the Winter Meetings begin this week, staring pitching will certainly be on the Dodgers X-Mas list. They may have lost out on that one big present they really wanted, but they’ll have to make do with a collection of those smaller gifts… and also put on that fake smile when they open them up to show everyone that’s what they “really” wanted.