Which Starting Pitchers Should The Dodgers Target On Waivers?

Now that the waiver period is upon is, the Dodgers are going to have to dig deep for starters. Dan Haren blew up again last night and seems finished. Josh Beckett‘s health isn’t guaranteed. The Dodgers need another starting pitcher. Chad outlined the internal options earlier today, which are generally unappealing and flawed. However, there are also external options who can still be acquired with waiver trades.

In order to find potential waiver trade candidates, we need to identify a pool of targets. In this post, I’m only considering pitchers on teams with playoff odds less than 10% per Fangraphs. Those teams are the Rays, Red Sox, White Sox, Twins, Astros, Rangers, Marlins, Mets, Phillies, Cubs, Padres, D’Backs, and the Rockies. The Yankees, Indians, and Reds are excluded for now; each team is hovering around 13%. If the Dodgers are going to upgrade their rotation immediately, they probably aren’t going to get a starter from a contending team.

From there, I used the Fangraphs team depth charts to whittle down the list of starters further. In order for a pitcher to even reach the Dodgers on waivers, the pitcher can’t have a lot of excess value on their contract. Thus, I’ve removed all pre-arbitration pitchers, as well as anybody with an overly team-friendly deal (sorry, no Chris Sale or Yu Darvish). I’ve also removed all pitchers currently on the disabled list from the pool, since the upgrade needs to happen now. That removes pitchers like Ian Kennedy from consideration.

In order to sort the players, I used the projections in each team’s Fangraphs depth chart, which are derived from Steamer RoS numbers. Since the total innings remaining are variable and based on the needs of the pitcher’s current organization, I’ve sorted by WAR/60 innings pitched (which is about what the Dodgers need to get to the end of the season). The ERA and FIP in this table are for each player’s current park, so in most cases the numbers will be lower in Dodger stadium. The numbers used to calculate the WAR are park and league adjusted, so they’d remain mostly static when translating to a new park.

Here are the top 15 pitchers using the methods outlined above:

# Pitcher Team RoS ERA RoS FIP RoS WAR/60IP
1 Cole Hamels Phillies 3.32 3.31 0.91
2 Clay Buchholz Red Sox 4.14 4.17 0.72
3 Jorge De La Rosa Rockies 4.56 4.33 0.67
4 Bartolo Colon Mets 3.75 3.67 0.60
5 Edwin Jackson Cubs 4.24 3.96 0.60
6 A.J. Burnett Phillies 4.02 3.79 0.53
7 Jon Niese Mets 3.87 3.78 0.44
8 Trevor Cahill D’Backs 4.15 4.06 0.44
9 Colby Lewis Rangers 4.64 4.70 0.41
10 Scott Feldman Astros 4.66 4.47 0.39
11 Yohan Pino Twins 4.77 4.62 0.32
12 Tsuyoshi Wada Cubs 4.34 4.38 0.30
13 Scott Baker Rangers 4.84 5.12 0.27
14 Kyle Kendrick Phillies 4.47 4.45 0.24
15 Yohan Flande Rockies 5.24 4.83 0.24

On top of the list, unsurprisingly, is Cole Hamels. Hamels is due over 90MM and is signed through 2018. However, he has been one of the most valuable pitchers in baseball over the past five years. If Hamels was a free agent this winter, he’d probably sign a contract higher than what he has left on his current deal. My belief is that the Giants would block the Dodgers from selecting him. The Phillies want prospects, and the Giants don’t really have many to give, so it’ll probably halt the process there and block a potential Dodger acquisition. If the Giants do get Hamels for free, they’ll have a significant rotation upgrade at a not-terrible price. It’s win-win for them. Also, it doesn’t appear that the Phillies even want to trade Hamels right now. It’s fun to dream, but it just isn’t realistic.

Clay Buchholz appearing second on the list is interesting, though his contract might be too club-friendly for him to move. He’s guaranteed one more year at $12MM, then has two affordable club options after that. Buchholz is really struggling this season, posting well below-average ERAs and FIPs, and has battled injuries since the middle of last season. Those caveats are why he remained on the list, but he seems unlikely to move. Boston’s rotation next season is nearly empty, so they probably want to hold onto what they can at this point.

Jorge de la Rosa is a free-agent after the end of the season, but the Rockies seem inclined to keep him. He’s right on the fringe of being good enough to extend a qualifying offer, so any trade would probably require more prospects than the Dodgers would want to give up for a sub-two month rental.

Bartolo Colon is signed through the end of next season. He’s old, but his longevity is amazing. If the Mets wanted to trade him, he’d probably be gone already in the more competitive July market. The Mets are actually relatively close to contention, and with Matt Harvey returning next season they already have a free, potentially significant roster upgrade in the works.

Edwin Jackson is surprisingly high on this list, given his 5.79 ERA and 4.25 FIP in 2014. His contract (11MM per season in 2015 and 2016) means that the Dodgers could potentially have him for free if they want. Jackson has a long history of being a league-average pitcher, which is why the projections still like him to rebound. He’s the first pitcher on the list who would be easily obtained, but the long-term nature of the contract could cause hesitation. Still, by projection systems and the reality of the four names above him, he’d probably be the biggest upgrade possible (which is depressing).

Beyond that, you get a players with a long list of problems. A.J. Burnett has a no-trade clause and probably won’t come to the west coast. Jon Niese isn’t amazing, but his cheap and long-term contract means he’ll be difficult to get. Trevor Cahill was so bad earlier in the season that the Diamondbacks moved him to the bullpen and ultimately to the minors. Colby Lewis wasn’t good enough to get a major league contract this offseason and is 35 years old. Scott Feldman is having a down season and is signed until 2016.

And that’s just the top 10. The 11-15 guys aren’t exciting either. Sure, a pitcher like Kyle Kendrick will eat the innings and will probably be above replacement level, which is likely better than what Haren or the internal options have to offer. A move of that nature is what you should be expecting. The Giants’ need for pitching and position in the waiver order complicates matters, too. Additionally, having any of the realistic waiver options in a playoff rotation is pretty scary. Hopefully Josh Beckett’s hip stays in one piece.

About Daniel Brim

Daniel Brim
Daniel Brim grew up in the Los Angeles area but doesn't live there anymore. He still watches the Dodgers and writes about them sometimes.