Dodgers could look to free agency to fill starting rotation vacancies

Aside from shortstop, the most pressing need the Dodgers have heading into the offseason is the starting rotation. Tyler Anderson, Andrew Heaney and Clayton Kershaw are all free agents, and Walker Buehler is going to miss the 2023 season due to his second Tommy John surgery. So using the 40-man depth chart, this is the Dodgers’ projected rotation if the season started today and no moves were made:

  1. Julio Urias
  2. Tony Gonsolin
  3. Dustin May
  4. Ryan Pepiot
  5. Michael Grove

That doesn’t include prospects like Bobby Miller and Gavin Stone, but they shouldn’t (and won’t be) counted on for substantial work in 2023. Of course, they wouldn’t go through he whole winter without addressing it, but this just shows Andrew Friedman and Co. have some work to do when it comes to the starting pitchers.

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Let’s get this out of the way right now: The Dodgers are — in overwhelmingly likelihood — going to re-sign Kershaw. He said he still wants to play and I’m sure losing the way the Dodgers did in the postseason isn’t exactly the way he wants to end his career. Oh, and he’s still really good (2.28 ERA, 2.57 FIP, 23.1 K-BB% in 2022)!

But even if (when) Kershaw comes back, there are still rotation spots to fill. The Dodgers will probably give Anderson the qualifying offer ($19.65 million), which he could very well accept, considering he’s coming off a career-year and is 33 years old. At the same time, this might be his last best chance at a multi-year, multi-million dollar deal. It wouldn’t be at all surprising to see a pitching-desparate team give him a 2- or 3-year deal with an aveage annual value of $12-15 million. Hell, the Dodgers could even be that team, but he’s not a lock to return.

Heaney was a nice reclamation project for the Dodgers. Despite being hurt and a rough finish to the season, he was really good for the Dodgers — 3.10 ERA, 3.75 FIP, 29.4 K-BB%. They could explore bringing him back, but I think Daniel said it best when he commented about Anderson — and the same could be said for Heaney.

So, that could lead to Heaney going elsewhere next season and beyond.

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There are a number of trade targets who could make sense, but it’s always a bit tougher to project trading for starting pitchers in the offseason. Some names who could be available include Shane Bieber, Lucas Giolito, Jack Flaherty, Lance Lynn, and yes, old friend Hyun-Jin Ryu. Oh, and that Shohei Ohtani guy, but the odds of the Angels trading him to the Dodgers are about the same as me hitting the Power Ball tonight.

There are some interesting non-Dodger arms on the free-agent market, led by Jacob deGrom. When he’s healthy, he’s the best pitcher in the game. I’m not sure it’s particularly close. Over the last two seasons, he has a 1.90 ERA, 1.60 FIP and an ungodly 40.7 K-BB%. The only thing is, that has come in just 26 games and 156 1/3 innings — just a little under the threshold to qualify for the ERA title over the course of a season, let alone two. He’s also going into his age-35 season, which is something teams will consider when exploring the idea of signing the right-hander.

Despite that, deGrom just seems like the type of pitcher Friedman would spend big bucks on with a short-term commitment. They tried to do that a couple winters ago with you-know-who, and this is the better chance for Friedman to go with the high AAV, short-term deal he’s been trying to make work for so many years. There’s no off-the-field baggage with deGrom and he comes with all the elite-levelness you could want. Almost makes too much sense! I’ll try to go more in-depth on deGrom in a future post.

Other free-agent arms who could interest the Dodgers include Chris Bassitt, Nathan Eovaldi, Martin Perez, Carlos Rodon (my preference if no deGrom), Kodai Senga (Daniel should have something on him soonish), Noah Syndergaard (meh), Jameson Taillon, Justin Verlander (borf) and Taijuan Walker. And, as stated earlier, they’ll be on the lookout for the next Anderson/Heaney reclamation projection.

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There are actually some intriguing starting pitchers available for just money (and maybe a draft pick due to the QO). If the Dodgers want to bolster the rotation again — because we’ve seen how it has faltered the last two playoff runs — using their overwhelming monetary advantage might be the best way to go.

We’ll see what they end up doing, but there are a number of options to fill the vancant rotation spots, and most of them might cost only money.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosted a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He was a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times and True Blue LA. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.