Yesterday was good! The Dodgers made a not-insignificant trade. Today? Well, it’s not off to the best start.
Jiji Press reporting the Dodgers backing out from Iwakuma after failed physical. https://t.co/JJ3MMEmWxI
— Kazuto Yamazaki (@Kazuto_Yamazaki) December 17, 2015
Well then. I and many others thought the delay on Hisashi Iwakuma‘s official signing was because he was in Japan or just generally unavailable to take a physical. Apparently, the Dodgers saw some things they didn’t like and are reportedly walking away from their 3-year, $45 million contract offer to Iwakuma.
Or maybe not.
"Inaccurate" to say #Dodgers are out on Iwakuma, I'm told. Perhaps they're reworking the contract?
— Dylan Hernandez (@dylanohernandez) December 17, 2015
Who knows. This offseason hasn’t exactly been smooth, and this is just the latest bump. Ken Rosenthal suggested, as Hernandez tweeted, the Dodgers could rework the deal to make it worth less guaranteed money. In theory, it isn’t a bad idea. In reality, it’s best to just walk away. A 35-year-old with iffy medicals aren’t something to mess around with. Also, the Dodgers would have to surrender their first round pick for an even bigger risk than he was when the agreement was first reported.
If the Dodgers have indeed backed out, there is some good news: They retain their first-round pick, and with the remaining players on the market (not just pitchers), the Dodgers should be holding that pick for the June draft. The only guys I could see them signing are Wei-Yin Chen, Alex Gordon or Justin Upton. No Yovani Gallardo. No Ian Kennedy. No Ian Desmond.
Chen is an interesting pitcher. Daniel likes him a lot, but with the left-handed-heavy Dodger rotation, a soft-tosser like Chen might not fit. He has averaged 177 innings in his first four MLB seasons and will pitch the 2016 season at age-30. The Dodgers’ rotation doesn’t have a sure bet for 200 innings after Clayton Kershaw, so maybe the Dodgers take a chance on Chen. I’m betting they pass, though.
Another option is Mike Leake, which would be terrible. The best part about Leake is his durability. He has averaged 194 innings pitched in the last four seasons (in which he made at least 30 starts). But his velocity and off-speed offerings leave a lot to be desired. He’s a ground ball pitcher, but he’s just not that good. Hard pass.
I’ve always liked Scott Kazmir, but he seems to be in a bit of a decline with his numbers and velocity. I’d rather take a chance on him than either of the guys before him, but he isn’t the most durable starter and has not thrown 200 since 2007, when he was a 23-year-old stud in Tampa.
The stateside free agents aren’t terribly appealing. So, the Dodgers might have to look elsewhere. Enter Kenta Maeda.
Maeda, 27, is one of Japan’s best pitchers and has been posted. He projects as a low-end No.3/high-end No. 4 starter in the majors. That isn’t great, but the Dodgers need an arm and he’s as good an option as any. He probably won’t be Hiroki Kuroda, but he should be solid. Daniel profiled him earlier in the offseason.
“Maeda’s scouting report hasn’t changed much since Mike wrote about him last year. He tops out in the lower 90s, is more of a grounder/soft contact pitcher than one who will get a lot of strikeouts. He can be a bit of a nibbler at times. His secondary pitches are decent but not ace-level, but he commands those pitches very well. It’s a good combination, but one which will require a lot of skill to move over to the majors. There aren’t a lot of comparable pitchers who made the jump.”
For the cost of the posting fee ($20 million) and whatever contract he demands, he might be the best value and what the Dodgers could use most at this point.
And look, they’re going to trade for a starting pitcher, too. There’s no doubt in my mind (even before yesterday’s trade). It might be Jose Fernandez. It might be Sonny Gray. It might be Carlos Carrasco. It’ll probably be someone else. Whatever happens, people aren’t going to be happy, I’m sure. Good thing the front office doesn’t exactly have to please the fans with every player personnel move.