Despite the Collective Bargaining Agreement set to expire on Dec. 1, the Dodgers made their first move of the offseason on Monday. They agreed to terms with left-hander Andrew Heaney on a reported 1-year, $8.5 million deal.
Yes, the same Andrew Heaney of Dodger lore. You know, one of the prized young players the Dodgers got in the Dee Strange-Gordon trade (also Enrique Hernandez). Heaney was then flipped for Howie Kendrick. How could we forget?
Now, seven years later, he’s in the fold as their potential No. 5 starter.
Before you get too concerned, no this won’t preclude the Dodgers from bringing back Clayton Kershaw and/or Max Scherzer. Heaney is a perfectly fine end-of-the-rotation guy, especially with the way some of his peripherals look. because that’s what you have to do with him. You shouldn’t look at the ugly 5.83 ERA for 2021. You shouldn’t look at the terrible 4.85 FIP. You shouldn’t look at the 2.01 HR/9 (3.28 with the Yankees after the trade deadline). However, there are some things you should look at.
Pretty good company. In fact, Robbie Ray is a name you’re going to hear a lot with this signing. A year ago, Ray was non-tendered by the Diamondbacks and ended up with the Blue Jays. He turned in a Cy Young-finalist season with Toronto and is set for a significant pay day at some point in this offseason.
The comparison is apt because of how similar their Statcast numbers look. Ray’s 2020 is on the left, Heaney’s 2021 is on the right.
In fact, Heaney’s numbers are a bit better in some areas. The 90th percentile fastball spin and 91st percentile chase rate stand out to me. And Heaney did that with a low-90s fastball, a low-to-mid-80s changeup and a high-70s curveball. His curveball was his best pitch in 2021, as he held batters to a .196 batting average against and recorded a 35.1 whiff rate on it. He threw it 22.6% of the time. I’d either expect that number to increase, or for the Dodgers to teach him the “Dodgers slider,” in hopes of turning him into a formidable starting pitcher. Something else to note: he still maintained his strong K-BB%. It was 19.5% this season, besting his 17.4% mark heading into 2021.
Heaney’s profile isn’t that dissimilar to Julio Urias. That’s the most optimistic (and unrealistic) turnout in this scenario, but would you be really shocked if the Dodgers did it again? Either that, or maybe Heaney is taught to throw his curveball the way Urias does. It was a big reason for his success in 2021.
We’ve seen the Dodgers work wonders with pitchers in the past, but it usually comes in the form of a reliever. With Heaney penciled in as a starter, Mark Prior will have his work cut out for him.
Who really is impacted most by this is Tony Gonsolin and David Price. Gonsolin dealt with injuries, but he has always shown promise. However, another subpar showing in the postseason might have sealed his fate — at least with LA — as swingman/long reliever type. Honestly, this signing could make it more likely they’re willing to include him in a trade this winter for a team looking for a cost-controlled starter. Price, who is going into the final year of his deal, never really got on track in 2021. He might still have something left in the tank, but the days of him being a consistent, solid starter have probably come and gone.
All in all, this is a decent depth signing. If Heaney breaks out, all the signs were there. If he doesn’t, no one’s really going to be surprised.
There’s no such thing as a bad 1-year deal for a team like the Dodgers.