Dodgers gamble on health to fill out rotation
Will Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson fortify the back of Los Angeles’ rotation?
After a lack of pitching depth doomed them in October, the Los Angeles Dodgers have spent big on the back of their rotation this offseason.
Sure, the likes of Brett Anderson (one year, $10M) and Brandon McCarthy (four years, $48M) don’t have the same appeal as Jon Lester or Cole Hamels. However, they do provide the Dodgers with added insurance on the pitching front. A lack of any reliable performer behind Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu ultimately cost the team in the playoffs, after all. If healthy, Anderson and McCarthy will be upgrades over Dan Haren and Roberto Hernandez, who the Dodgers were forced to depend on down the stretch last season.
The same can be said of the club’s bullpen, which should be improved thanks to the unheralded arrivals of Joel Peralta and Juan Nicasio. At the very least, Peralta and Nicasio will help ensure that a fatigued Kershaw isn’t hung out to dry again next October.
That Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi have gone about their first offseason in charge of the Dodgers by making a number of shrewd, smaller moves rather than any one big splash is indicative of why they were hired. Both have experience keeping small-market teams afloat through efficient spending, and both plan on bringing these experiences to bear within an organization that might just be the richest in MLB.
Signings like Anderson’s demonstrate the type of upside the Dodgers can take a risk on without it much affecting their bottom line. The 26-year-old Anderson is unlikely to remain healthy for all of 2015 — he hasn’t thrown 100 innings in a single season since 2010. Even so, spending $10 million on a one-year deal is of little cost to a team as rich as L.A., and there is a chance he finally finds a way to stay on the field.
Anderson is still effective when he does pitch. In 43⅓ innings for the Rockies last season, the left-hander finished with a 2.91 ERA and 2.99 FIP, striking out 29 batters and walking 13. Over the past four years, Anderson posted a 3.97 ERA and 3.52 FIP in just over 200 innings pitched.
McCarthy, too, brings better upside and pedigree than the likes of Haren or Hernandez. One can argue that guaranteeing four years to a pitcher with McCarthy’s injury history is foolish, but he showed just how well he can pitch when healthy with the Yankees during the final months of the season.
Although he struggled to begin the year in Arizona, McCarthy turned it on in pinstripes, showing off more velocity and strikeout ability than he had in years past. For someone of McCarthy’s talent, $12 million annually could prove to be a steal, especially since the right-hander will gain the added benefit of pitching in Dodger Stadium rather than the hitter-friendly environments in Arizona and the Bronx.
What these signings mean is that the Dodgers likely won’t be pairing Kershaw and Greinke with another top-of-the-rotation arm, but rather with depth and under-appreciated pitchers like McCarthy. Choosing not to pursue someone like Hamels also allows Los Angeles to hang onto its top prospects, many of whom (most notably, Joc Pederson) are close to helping the major league squad.
How the club fares in 2015 will likely depend on how healthy and effective McCarthy and Anderson are. If injuries leave the rotation vulnerable yet again, Los Angeles might find itself in a similar position to last year. But if these pitchers can stay healthy, the team’s starting staff will be one of baseball’s best, justifying the risks Friedman and Zaidi took in signing them.
Yes, the Dodgers remain financial heavyweights. But with Kershaw, Greinke, Yasiel Puig and Adrian Gonzalez, they are a team that already has star talent. Filling in the missing pieces and the bottom part of the roster has been the harder part, and with McCarthy and Anderson signed Los Angeles is one step closer to achieving that goal.